Who are the Syrian Electronic Army?

From wiping $136 billion off the US stock market to forcing spoof news site The Onion to turn serious, the Syrian Electronic Army are an emerging force in the conflict that has killed over 70,000 people. The pro-regime hackers have attacked hundreds of high-profile targets from the BBC to FIFA chief Sepp Blatter, but little is known about the group.

“The central mission of the S.E.A. is to defend the Syrian nation against the vicious lying media campaign launched by more than half of the world,” a spokesperson for the group told Metro. “We have not attacked any website or social media account that has displayed neutrality when covering the war on Syria. Unfortunately, these are very few.”

Launched quietly in 2011 from a Facebook group, the S.E.A. has become an efficient network for creating chaos. Composed “mostly of students and youth, with members of the Syrian Arab Army”, according to the source, the group also benefits from chapters in the US and Europe. Boasting thousands of members, they have been able to dominate web discourse of the conflict.

The S.E.A.’s growing power was shown by an April hack of the Associated Press Twitter feed, from which they announced “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured”, causing a nosedive in the Dow Jones stock index. “The best so far, but the attacks in the pipeline will be even better,” said the spokesperson.

The Onion fought back after suffering a similar attack, publishing a guide to S.E.A. methods, which it claimed could be easily defended. However, further attacks on Sky News in May support the hackers’ claim that they have more sophisticated tactics.

Asked whether they supported President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on protestors, the S.E.A. said they “could criticize specific actions but whatever mistakes don’t justify the animalism displayed by the opposition.” They categorically denied receiving support from, or being close to, the regime.

This is disputed by experts. “I think the S.E.A. is close enough to the regime to be able to operate freely in a country that is known for its restrictive measures on internet activities and information flow,” said Helmi Noman, senior researcher at Citizen Lab who has studied the group since 2011. “The Syrian state TV has broadcast programs covering the activities of the S.E.A. S.E.A. members appeared in these programs…so the group members are known and reachable to the Syrian media.”

Syrian activist Amjad Baiazy, a former prisoner of the regime and academic researcher, goes further. “We know they are operating from Students’ Union buildings which are like a syndicate for the government. The regime relies on the S.E.A. for intelligence on opposition activists, gathering evidence for them to make arrests,” he told Metro.

Based on interviews with S.E.A. operatives, Baiazy estimates there are over 5,000 members, with a high level of training and funding. “There has been a surge in quantity and quality, and reports of funding from Iran and Russia. They are now a major asset for Assad.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NBA

Deron Williams leads Nets over Raptors in Game…

The Nets traveled to a raucous Air Canada Centre but came out with an important Game 1 victory over the Raptors.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.