What’s the Deal with the Syrian Electronic Army?

The Syrian Electronic Army struck again, this time attacking the tech blog and twitter accounts of the Financial Times. Rather than trying to spread an anti-American/pro-Assad message or cause chaos as they have in the past, they simply reported that “The Syrian Electronic Army was here.” We get it, they planted their flag, but what was the point?

The SEA first came to our attention when they hacked the Associated Press Twitter account last month with an announcement that there had been an explosion in the White House. Before people could confirm the hack, the Dow Jones fell 150 points. They also hacked the accounts of 48 Hours and 60 Minutes. From an average American’s perspective, a foreign activist group was using social media to create a state of panic in the USA. The SEA was at the forefront of our minds.

shutterstock_103173644But then it seemed they lost their way. The AP attack was a one hit wonder, and no one really wanted to listen to the follow-up albums. Shortly after the original attack, the SEA set its sights on the E! account and tweeted that Justin Bieber came out as gay. Clearly someone needs to tell the Syrains that rumors of Justin Bieber’s sexuality surface every week, it’s hardly breaking news anymore. Furthermore, Beliebers are hardly household decision makers in our country. The CIA, FBI and National Guard don’t have contingency plans just in case the Biebs gets another haircut. Other than announcing that Bieber fans had been trolled (their word, not mine) they really didn’t seem to have any agenda behind the attack.

The unimpressive comeback album occurred last week when the SEA compromised the Twitter account of The Onion. We’re seeing a pattern here: Twitter account is hacked, organization is slightly inconvenienced, SEA takes credit. This attack posted anti-Israeli messages to the fans as one of the hackers (who goes by the moniker Th3 Pro) sent an email to the New York Times explaining why:

“Recently they have published an article that savages Syria and its current circumstances. This hurt the feelings of many Syrians who relied on it to tell the truth in a funny way…The Onion can do a much better job reporting the truth through its satire. Unfortunately even they seem to be biased.” -via NYT

We’ve seen foreign agencies actually take The Onion seriously before. Last year, a Chinese newspaper mistakenly believed America had voted Kim Jong Un the Sexiest Man Alive. Is it possible that the SEA faced the same problem?

With the recent attacks on the Financial Times, it looks as if the SEA is getting back on track by hacking actual news organizations, but their goals and messages are still ambiguous. Are they trying to raise awareness about their organization? Are they trying to strike fear in the hearts of western twitter users? Let me see their business plan and KPIs.

What do you think? Do you take the Syrian Electronic Army seriously?