News

Guardian hit in pro-Syrian cyber attacks

Warwick Ashford

Syrian hackers have launched cyber attacks on the Guardian and other western media groups, the newspaper reports.

The attacks were aimed at causing disruption and spreading messages of support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s government, which is facing global criticism over its brutal efforts to quell a rebellion.  

The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) claimed responsibility for hacking into the Guardian’s Twitter accounts at the weekend, saying it had targeted the paper for spreading lies about Syria.

The group, believed to be a front for the al-Assad government, previously targeted the BBC, al Jazeera, France 24 TV, US National Public Radio and the Associated Press news agency.

The temporary breach of the AP Twitter account enabled the SEA to send bogus messages about explosions at the White House that caused a brief 143-point drop on the Dow Jones industrial average.

Analysts said the latest cyber attacks seem to concentrate on western media organisations to generate publicity.

Last month, the SEA hacked into the Twitter accounts associated with BBC weather, BBC Arabic Online and BBC Radio Ulster and posted some pro-Syrian and anti-Israeli tweets.

In the latest attacks on the Guardian, the paper said the SEA had used phishing attacks to trick staff into revealing details that would enable the attackers to access official Twitter feeds.

The Guardian said the attack was identified quickly and linked to internet protocol (IP) addresses in Syria.

Syrian opposition groups have claimed that pro-regime hackers typically earn $500 to $1,000 for a successful attack. They also get free accommodation and food.

The Guardian News & Media group has issued a statement saying: "We are aware that a number of Guardian Twitter accounts have been compromised and we are working actively to resolve this."

After the AP hack, it emerged that Twitter is testing a two-factor authentication system internally, aimed at making it more difficult for hackers to take over users’ accounts.

News of Twitter’s plans to bolster security with two-factor authentication first emerged in February after the micro-blogging service was forced to reset 250,000 account passwords after a system breach.

The planned security system requires users to enter a one-time password (OTP) sent to their mobile phones whenever they log in from a computer or device they do not normally use.


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