Security

Syrian Electronic Army says revealed hacker identities are fake (updated)

Above: Syrian Electronic Army

Updated August 29 at 11:29am PT with comment from Mohammed Osman.

The world supposedly learned the names of two Syrian Electronic Army hackers today, but the organization responsible for attacks on The New York Times, CBS, and other organizations denies the report’s accuracy.

Brian Krebs and Vice’s Motherboard both published names today, seemingly from a similar source who claims to have hacked the SEA’s website while the group was moving its domains to Russia. The anonymous source reportedly stole the user database, which revealed a number of emails for the website’s administrators.

Krebs came to the conclusion that a “Mohammed Osman” was behind two of the email addresses associated with the SEA’s website. Both Vice and Krebs came to the conclusion that a 19-year-old named “Hatem Deeb” was also associated with the SEA.

“We already said that it’s a false articles, they published articles about SEA identity with many names in the past, it always happen when SEA strike a huge target, so they can take some attention,” the Syrian Electronic Army told VentureBeat in an email.

Mohammed Osman also told VentureBeat, “I am not a member in ‘Syrian Electronic Army’, and if I were, would I mention where I work, post my personal photo as declaring my political views?”

Furthermore, the pro-Syrian regime hacking group pointed out that hackers might not use their real names on social media or in website registrations. Of course, the group has an interest in denying these identities.

The Syrian Electronic Army has been on a hacking spree, affecting many U.S. publications that have written about the conflict in Syria. The SEA most recently claimed responsibility for a hack on the New York Times yesterday that took the site offline. This month, it also hacked into the Washington Post through content partner Outbrain, which re-promotes a website’s existing content to its visitors.

Beyond that, the SEA has claimed hacks for the Associated Press, NPR, CBS, Reuters, Al Jazeera, and others.

The group regularly attacks publications reporting on the situation in Syria. The outcomes of the attacks vary from defaced websites to posts redirected back to the SEA’s website to hacked Twitter accounts and fake tweets. In the case of Reuters, the SEA sent out a fake tweet about an explosion at the White House, causing the Dow Jones to drop one percent in a minute’s time.

Krebs originally announced that he had discovered these identities through Twitter saying, “Who runs the Syrian Electronic Army? You’re about to find out. #pwned”

An SEA Twitter account then replied, “The SEA responded by asked Krebs if he was declaring “war on sons of Assad?” and suggested that he could email them for their forgiveness. It seems the group already has a retaliation plan in the works.

The revelation comes at a tense time for relations between the United States and Syria. The U.S. and U.K. have been in talks about intervening in the country that could come in the form of military action.