Emsisoft Explains the Syrian Electronic Army

14850652_sIn recent weeks, tech news feeds have had a lot to say about the Syrian Electronic Army.  Just last week this mysterious entity hacked CNN, and a few days before that they broke into Microsoft Office’s blog.  If you’ve read the headlines but haven’t had the time to delve into the details, you might be wondering just who (or what) this “electronic army” is and if they are a threat to you and your computer.

Politically Motivated Hackers

The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) is a group of politically motivated hackers.  They exist to attack western media which they believe misrepresents Syria’s image to the world.  It is unknown whether they are linked to the Syrian government, however they have received praise from President Bashar al-Assad.  Unless you work for a major, western media outlet, the SEA is not a threat to you and your computer.  Their attacks may however affect the way you receive information on the Internet.

Where the SEA Attacks

Typical SEA attacks attempt to disrupt major news channels with misinformation.  On January 23, 2014, the group hijacked social media accounts of CNN employees and used them as platforms to spread their political message.  The very next day, Microsoft Corporation announced that their employees’ accounts had been compromised as well.  This announcement was in response to the Microsoft Office blog hack, which occurred on January 21st.

Attacks like these have actually been going on since 2011.  In the past two and a half years, the SEA has attacked The New York Times, Reuters, and even Harvard University.

What you need to Know

We live in a world of information.  The most important thing that you need to know about the Syrian Electronic Army is that you are probably not in their crosshairs.  They attack large, western organizations – not people.

It is important to recognize, however, that a majority of SEA attacks begin with targeted phishing emails.  To gain access to websites, blogs, and social media profiles, the SEA has in many cases done nothing more than send an employee an email that requests their credentials.  The fact that people who work for Microsoft – one of the largest computer corporations in the world – clearly illustrates that no one is immune to social engineering and shows just how important it is treat suspicious emails with the utmost caution.

Another interesting aspect of the SEA is the effect their attacks can have on your perception of the world.   The SEA is waging a battle of information, in a world where most people find their news on the web.  The SEA disagrees with how western media is portraying their country, and regardless of who is in the right or the wrong their attacks alter our daily narrative and bring to question the validity of everything we encounter on the Internet.

We think you should know about the Syrian Electronic Army because information is an essential component of comprehensive PC security.  When you log on to the Internet, you are connecting to a system so complex and dynamic that it is impossible to know it all.  But every definition helps, and as a citizen of the world-wide-web it’s important to know when a “virtual war” is being waged.

If you’d like to more about the SEA, please feel free to inquire with comments below or pose a question at the Emsisoft support forum.  Our malware research team will gladly help you understand this emerging trend.

In the meantime, Have a (Virtually-Peaceful) Malware Free Day!