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Syrian Electronic Army: How safe is the U.S.?

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If you haven’t heard of the Syrian Electronic Army (S.E.A.) before now, you might want to make note of them. If you value your ability to check Facebook, send texts and keep up with family and friends via the internet, they could have an impact on American society in a big way.

Last week, the Syrian Electronic Army hacked into the New York Times website causing a major disruption, and readers who tried to click on the New York Times’ website got nothing but error messages last Tuesday. This was the second major disruption at the Times this month.

Few facts are known about the S.E.A., but it has the appearance of a “loose hacker collective” according to Politico. It was formed back in 2011 in the midst of the Syrian uprisings, and is pro-Assad, but it’s still not known if the S.E.A. is under the control of the Syrian government.

The group is highly educated, speak English, they are young, and are products of the internet culture. Politico says, “The SEA knows how to capture a precise kind of attention from a particular kind of audience. This is in part, one suspects, because they are that kind of audience, one who lives on Facebook and Twitter.”

The S.E.A. has been extremely active in recent months. They have taken credit for Web attacks on media targets that it sees as sympathetic to Syria’s rebels, including attacks at the New York Times, the Washington Post, Agence France-Press, 60 Minutes, CBS News, National Public Radio, The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera English and the BBC.

Michael Fey, a chief technology officer at cybersecurity firm McAfee, said Tuesday that as long as media organizations play a critical role as influencers and critics, they will continue to be targets of cyber-attacks.“Regardless of technology or tactics deployed, we should expect to see more of these attacks,” he said.

On Friday evening, NBC News unearthed a 2011 story published by a Syrian government-run newpaper al-Wenda, which identified and praised the leaders of the S.E.A. It looks like this group could be well-funded and will be launching many more cyber attacks on the U.S. If this wasn’t real-life stuff we would think it was out of a fiction novel. The world is a scary place and getting scarier everyday.

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