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
Local

Gunther from 'Friends' talks Central Perk

We spoke with Gunther (James Michael Tyler) at the preview for new pop-up Central Perk, based on the cafe in "Friends."

Local

Central Perk opens in SoHo

Central Perk, of "Friends" fame, is giving out free coffee in SoHo through Oct. 18.

National

Beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch reproaches NFL over domestic abuse

Anheuser-Busch chastised the NFL for its handling of domestic violence cases, making it the first major advertiser to put pressure on the league.

Local

Sen. Krueger dishes on prospect of legal marijuana…

New Yorkers may see the legalization of recreational marijuana use as early as 2015 if State Senator Liz Krueger (D) gets her way. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will…

Music

FREEMAN makes Freeman a free man from Ween

For nearly 30 years, Aaron Freeman was known endearingly to his listeners as Gene Ween. But with "FREEMAN," he makes it clear that he's gone somewhere else.

Television

'Outlander' recap: Season 1, Episode 6: 'The Garrison…

Whipping, punching, kicking and a marriage contract. "Outlander" is not for the faint of heart this week with "The Garrison Commander."

The Word

The Word: Hey girl, it's a girl for…

It's a girl for Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, who reportedly welcomed a daughter last Friday, according to Us Weekly. The super-private couple managed to…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 16: 'New Girl,'…

Check out the season premiere of "New Girl," as Jess competes with Jessica Biel for a guy's attentions.

MLB

5 top contenders for NL Rookie of the…

The outing rekindled award talk for deGrom, who appears to hold the top spot for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Metro breaks down a few other contenders.

College

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

Style

Rachel Zoe: New York Fashion Week Spring 15

Rachel Zoe goes 'Glam bohemia' for Spring.

Food

Where to find SweeTango apples

Introduced in 2009, SweeTango — a hybrid of Honeycrisp and Zestar — is a sweet apple with plenty of crunch.

Style

London Fashion Week recap

London Fashion week gets in on the action with politics, heritage and summertime living.

Food

Padma Lakshmi's recipe for green mango curry

Padma Lakshmi shares her recipe for green mango curry in UNICEF's new book, "UNICHEF."