SEA - Syrian Electronic Army - Cyberterrorism

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Information about SEA - Syrian Electronic Army - Cyberterrorism

Published on February 28, 2014

Author: ansanz



Small essay about the SEA (Syrian Electronic Army)

SEA (SyrianElectronicArmy) The SEA (Syrian Electronic Army) is an organized group of Syrian computer hackers aligned with the actual regime, using cyber attacks (DDoS, spam and straight hacking) targeting political opposition and Western websites(1). Although not directly related to the Syrian government, they share similar agendas. The SEA has a strong political orientation, its main objective being “to fight those who use the Internet and especially Facebook to “spread hatred” and “destabilize the security” in Syria (2). Terrorist attacks of special interest - AP Hack (23 April 2013): The SEA hijacked the Associated Press Twitter account and falsely claimed the White House had been bombed and President Barack Obama injured. This caused a temporary $136 billion in Dow Jones stock market index (3). - 15 August 2013: Advertising serviceOutbrain was hacked by the SEA. This allowed them to place posts into the websites of The Washington Post, Time, and CNN (4). Terrorist nature and context We first need to try to define what terrorism and cyberterrorism is. If we search Oxford Dictionary : Terrorism –“the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims” (5). Cyberterrorism –“the politically motivated use of computers and information technology to cause severe disruption or widespread fear” (6). As we can see, terrorism and cyberterrorism are quite similar in essence, both focusing in spreading fear with a political aim. Using the revised consensus academic definition on terrorism made by Schmid (7), we see further relations between terrorism and cyberterrorism: fear generating intention, propagandistic agitation by non-state actors in zones of conflict, threat based communication processes, the targeting of civilians, political use and being part of an organized campaign of acts. Cyberterrorism does not intent to cause direct deaths (although one of the main concerns of technical experts is the chance of a cyberterrorist group to successfully attack critical infrastructures of a country like dams, power grids or nuclear plants), but nevertheless is violent in its nature. Its violence is mainly psychological: Through attacks to mass media (like those mentioned above) and a massive use of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the SEA spreads its propaganda in order to influence public opinion, with the main objective being to force foreign states to accept Al-Assad regime and crushing online the opposition. The SEA has publicly taken credit for these attacks in its own website (solving one of the greatest issues of cyberterrorism, the attribution), and are with no doubt an organized group

(divided as they say into battalions). If we refer to the EU Common Position 2001/931/CFSP (8), Article 3 defines what can be considered as a terrorist act, while Article 2 defines a terrorist group. According to Article 3 (iii)(d): “seriously destabilizing or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of acountry or an international organization:causing extensive destruction to a Government orpublic facility, a transport system, an infrastructurefacility, including an information system, a fixed platform located on the continental shelf, a public place or private property, likely to endanger human life orresult in major economic loss”. The SEA activities fall perfectly into this article. Several international organizations have watched SEA’s rising with concern, and FBI has put them on a watch list (9), and UK government has several SEA membersassets freezed under finantial sanctions (10) Conclusion Cyberterrorism has several differences with terrorism but its essence is the same: use violence with political intent. And cyberterrorism is a rising tide, with an onerous risk of a successful attack to a critical infrastructure which causes severe human loss, so it just can’t be left aside. The Syrian Electronic Army is a dedicated group that uses cyber attacks to influence public opinion and politicians, following to the letter the"Terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead" cited by Jenkins (11). Although SEA has not commited extremely severe attacks, its potential to cause damage is clear. This is the main reason the EU should mark it as a terrorist group, being the first entity to officially list cyberterrorism as a critical menace and giving its due relevance.

Sources (1) Syrian Electronic Army - Homepage (2)The Emergence of Open and Organized Pro-Government Cyber Attacks in the Middle East: The Case of the Syrian Electronic Army (3) Washinton Post – Associated Press Hack (4) BBC – Washington Post, CNN and Time websites hit by pro-Assad hackers (5) Oxford Dictionaries: Definition of terrorism (6) Oxford dictionaries - Cyberterrorism (7) Schmid, Alex P. - The Revised Academic Consensus Definition of Terrorism, Perspectives on Terrorism, Vol 6 No 2 (2012) (8)COUNCIL COMMON POSITIONof 27 December 2001on the application of specific measures to combat terrorism (9) FBI Advisory list- SEA (10) Consolidated list of financial sanctions targets in the UK syria.pdf (11) Brian Michael Jenkins.Unconquerable Nation: Knowing Our Enemy, Strengthening Ourselves

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