News You Really Need To See: “Hackers Use Old Web Lure to Help Assad”

“Hackers Use Old Web Lure to Help Assad”

The New York Times, February 2, 2015, p.A1

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/02/world/middleeast/hackers-use-old-web-lure-to-aid-assad.html

“To the young Syrian rebel fighter, the Skype message in early December 2013 appeared to come from a woman in Lebanon, named Iman Almasri, interested in his cause.  Her picture, in a small icon alongside her name, showed a fair-skinned 20-something in a black head covering, wearing sunglasses.  They chatted online for nearly two hours, seemingly united in their opposition to the rule of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian leader still in power after a civil war that has taken more than 200,000 lives.  Eventually saying she worked ‘in a programing company in Beirut,’ the woman asked the fighter whether he was talking from his computer or his smartphone.  He sent her a photo of himself and asked for another of her in return.  She sent one immediately, apologizing that it was a few years old. … What the fighter did not know was that buried in the code of the second photo was a particularly potent piece of malware that copied files from his computer, including tactical battle plans and troves of information about him, his friends and fellow fighters.  The woman was not a friendly chat partner, but a pro-Assad hacker — the photos all appear to have been plucked from the web.  The Syrian conflict has been marked by a very active, if only sporadically visible, cyberbattle that has engulfed all sides, one that is less dramatic than the barrel bombs, snipers and chemical weapons — but perhaps just as effective.”

Quickie analysis:  Interesting article on the state and non-state exploitations of cyber-vulnerabilities in the Syrian conflict, which is no doubt proving a laboratory for other conflicts, present and future.

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