The United States and its allies are under attack.
If you thought the mainland was impenetrable, you were unfortunately wrong – a Syrian army has already reached American soil.
As the Obama administration contemplates a military strike against the Syrian government, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) took over the domain registration of several U.S. companies by attacking Australian Internet service provider MelbourneIT.
Melbourne IT provides and manages website addresses for major companies including Microsoft, the New York Times, Twitter, and Yahoo.
The SEA gained access to MelboruneIT through an Indian Internet service provider, and it listed itself as the owner and primary contact for Twitter and New York Times domains. This allowed the organization to shut down the sites and replace them with its own content.
For a short period of time, visitors to NYTimes.com were redirected to a server controlled by the SEA. Afterwards, the website was shut down for several hours. Twitter was less affected by the attack, with photo viewing only sporadically interrupted.
MelboruneIT has since countered the SEA attack, having corrected the domain settings and resetting all affected login information.
But while this particular cyber attack had seemingly little affect, the threat should certainly not be underestimated.
HD Moore, Chief Research Officer at major cyber security firm Rapid7, tells us that this attack could have potentially been debilitating. "If they had actually gone all out, they could've had most of the Internet watching them run the show."
And this isn't the first time Syrian hackers have breached our media outlets – CNN, Time, and the Washington Post were all affected earlier this month when hackers promoting the SEA penetrated a third party service used by the three publishers.
Based on the selected targets, the purpose of these attacks is clear: the SEA wishes to create a high profile event and spread propaganda by redirecting users to its own servers.
Ironically enough, the SEA has continued to boast on its own Twitter account about the attacks, and it is making claims about its anti-war stance and desire for world peace.
Now, I'm not sure about you, but I'm quite sure that cyber attacks that negatively affect U.S. citizens and businesses do not constitute acts of peace.
And while some might be buying it, I refuse to be fooled. The fact is, these are sophisticated individuals. Any group that is capable of breaching servers of major media outlets in such a way is intelligent enough to understand that such actions are highly instigative.
If the SEA's intent was truly to promote peace, it would have done so in a peaceful manner – not an aggressive one.
This is why we have media outlets in the first place – share your message, and if it is worthwhile, people will spread it. But the SEA doesn't care about that form of choice – it simply wants to force its views upon us.
The unfortunate part about all this is that, in a way, we have already given the SEA exactly what it wants: our attention. But at this point, there is no turning back – the story will be covered regardless, and we cannot just choose to ignore it.
As part of the SEA's "anti-war message" the organization had the following hypocritical words to say: "... we will have no choice but to fight this war to its end and that end won't be inside Syria alone."
To me, that seems like a blatant threat against the outside world – hardly a peaceful message.
I've made it a point to point out this hypocrisy to the SEA on Twitter, and the organization has so far been too cowardly to respond.
However, the SEA did retweet a response I received from @Anon_Central, presumably representatives of the infamous Anonymous hacker group. Feel free to get in on that conversation, or tell the SEA what you you think about its recent cyber attacks on its Twitter page here.