- What is “TikTok including Musical.ly”? Tuesday 8:48 PM
- Video shows driver yelling N-word at Black woman in road rage incident Tuesday 7:40 PM
- A fan gifted Billie Eilish a jacket–it ended up in a thrift store for another fan to find Tuesday 6:49 PM
- Fans are surprisingly hyping Moby up for his new vegan tattoo Tuesday 6:13 PM
- Suspicionless searches of travelers’ electronics ruled unconstitutional Tuesday 5:22 PM
- Facebook testing TikTok clone within Instagram called Reels Tuesday 5:11 PM
- Han Solo shooting scene changed yet again, spawning ‘Maclunkey’ memes Tuesday 4:52 PM
- Facebook bug opened iPhone cameras while users scrolled their feeds Tuesday 4:36 PM
- Black Facebook employees say company racism has ‘gotten worse’ Tuesday 4:01 PM
- This fish with a ‘human face’ is here to give you nightmares Tuesday 3:28 PM
- TikTok’s piercing challenge leaves the fate of your face up to a filter Tuesday 2:54 PM
- Soldiers with top-secret clearance say they were ordered to install a sketchy app Tuesday 2:46 PM
- How to take your Korean beauty routine on the go Tuesday 2:24 PM
- Disney+’s ‘Encore!’ is a love letter to high school theater Tuesday 2:15 PM
- White tourist filmed shouting homophobic, racist slurs Tuesday 1:31 PM
Cyber war in Syria is accelerating, study says
And they’re using U.S. companies to do it.
Pro-Assad hackers in civil war–torn Syria are targeting military opponents using increasingly sophisticated malware and social engineering attacks, a new report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Citizen Lab revealed.
Internet-based attacks by supporters of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad were observed as early as 2011. According to the report’s findings, the hackers used a combination of social media manipulation, malware, and remote-access devices in order to trick opposition fighters into giving them access to their computers. With this access they can surveil and manipulate the opposition forces.
Here is one telling example: In an email-based attack, the hackers sent out a message with the subject line “Serious video – It shows the malice of al-Assad’s military.” Appearing to have been sent from militant opposition group, this particular email contained a link accompanied by the message “Leaked and very, very, very serious footage. See what happened to a civilian and what the civilian said.” At the other end of the link was graphic video of man “having his throat cut and bleeding to death,” as the EFF described it.
The video, however, turned out to be a decoy. As the user watched it, an executable file installed malware on their computer that allows pro-Assad hackers spy on them by to logging their keystrokes and take screenshots of their computers.
The EFF traced the malware from this and similar emails back to a Mexican company apparently hacked by the attackers.
In another similar attack, Syrian opposition received a message claiming to know the location of pro-Assad troops:
“Very important. For dissemination. [Information about] the military locations which civilians must avoid for their safety. The locations are also where the Islamic Army leadership decided to intensify its attacks with all kinds of weapons because the troops and leaders of al-Assad’s army gather there. [Information about] the important military barricades in the roads used for the [military] supply and where explosions targeting Shabiha barricades might take place. All places are illustrated using photos from Google Earth.”
The report does not specify whether the opposition forces in Syria are using the same tactics. Nevertheless, it gives insight into the increasingly powerful tactics of cyber warfare in Syria, and how those tactics exploit the decentralized, global, anonymous nature of the Internet. Even in this brief summary of the report, notice how major American technology companies like Facebook, YouTube, and even Google play an important (yet unknowing) role in the attacks.
“We urge Syrians to be wary of opening email attachments containing documents or PDFs and to be especially careful when clicking on links in pro-opposition Facebook groups and YouTube pages,” the report concludes.
Photo by Freedom House/Flickr
Joe Kloc is a former Daily Dot contributor who covered technology and policy. He's contributed to Newsweek and Mother Jones, discussed his reporting on air with WNYC, and written Weekly Reviews for Harper's Magazine.