Syria wages cyber warfare as websites hacked

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He said the difference between the tactics of anti-government hackers and the Syria Electronic Army was that the latter publishes threats against anti-government activists along with their phone numbers and addresses, putting their lives in danger.

RevoluSec and Anonymous said Monday they were behind the latest attacks targeting the websites of several Syrian government ministries and some major Syrian cities.

The activists said they replaced the websites with caricatures of Assad and messages that read: “Don’t let Bashar monitor you online.”

They also published interactive maps detailing casualty figures since the start of the uprising.

Skinner said Monday’s hacking shows that the Syrian government has not erected sufficient defensive safeguards, despite reported training from its ally Iran on how to deal with the protest movement and mounting a sophisticated response.

The online attacks “underscore its vulnerability to curve-ball attacks,” he said. “It will undoubtedly require a strong response from the regime on the PR front.”

Anonymous said on its website that 12 government websites had been defaced by RevoluSec. Most have since been restored, but some were still down. The cartoons of Assad were removed.

“We hear that Syrian President Assad likes computers. Guess what? So do we,” read a message Monday on the Twitter account of RevoluSec.

“Our goal is to raise public awareness of the abhorrent actions of the brutal Assad regime and the bloody war that it wages on its own people,” a member of the group told The Associated Press Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of government retaliation.

Assad, a British-trained eye-doctor who succeeded his father as president, was once seen as someone who could herald reforms in Syria. Prior to becoming president in 2000, he headed Syria’s Computer Society and pushed youth to become more computer-savvy.

Now activists seeking to oust him are using the Internet as a weapon against his rule, uploading graphic videos shot in secret of assaults on protesters and using social media websites to organize protests and relay messages.

Syria has banned journalists from reporting on the unrest, but videos posted online by activists have offered a rare and crucial glimpse into the far reaches of the country where the military has been deployed to crush protests.

Assad’s regime tightly controls traditional media outlets in Syria, such as television, radio and newspapers. State-run channels often blame the unrest on a foreign-inspired conspiracy and Islamic extremists.

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Zeina Karam can be reached on http://twitter.com/zkaram

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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