Syria "hacked": Anonymous blindsides the world

Amonymous group launched a range of new attacks
A new series of devastating computer attacks, targeting Syria and the US, has been carried out by the notorious group of hackers known as Anonymous.

The “hacktivists”, best known for their attacks on such high-profile organizations as the CIA, Visa, and NATO, have this time bombarded a website belonging to the Syrian Defense Ministry, as well as some 70 law-enforcement websites across the southern and central United States.

­“All tyrants will fail”

The Syrian Defense Ministry’s website went offline in the early morning on August 8. Instead of the ministry’s services, the page showed a modified version of the 1932 green-white-black flag with three red stars. The star in the middle was replaced with a headless character – the symbol of the hacking group.

The bottom part of the website said in English and Arabic, "To the Syrian people: The world stands with you against the brutal regime of Bashar Al-Assad. Know that time and history are on your side – tyrants use violence because they have nothing else, and the more violent they are, the more fragile they become."

The message also contained a short address to the country’s military, which has been broadly criticized for its violent crackdown on anti-government protesters, "To the Syrian military: You are responsible for protecting the Syrian people, and anyone who orders you to kill women, children, and the elderly deserves to be tried for treason. No outside enemy could do as much damage to Syria as Bashar Al-Assad has done. Defend your country – rise up against the regime!"

This comes after a range of violent clashes between Syrian government forces and the opposition that have intensified in recent days. Protesters are demanding the ousting of President Bashar Al-Assad, who took over from his father in 2000. The authorities say terrorists are behind the demonstrations.

­Girls in swimsuits

In another attack, on August 7, Anonymous made a devastating hit on 70 rural law enforcement websites in the US.

The hacktivists have leaked into the range of sensitive information from the website, including e-mails stolen from officers, tips about suspected crimes, profiles of gang members, details about security training, and credit card numbers – 10 gigabytes worth of data overall.

The American media quoted some police officers as saying that some of the material was related to ongoing investigations. For security reasons, the officers did not expand on the cases further, but reportedly, the hackers managed to get hold of a couple of provocative pictures showing teenage girls in their swimsuits.

The group targeted mainly sheriffs' offices in states including Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Mississippi. The websites were either unavailable or had been wiped clean of content, AP reported.

Anonymous said in a statement that it was leaking “a massive amount of confidential information that is sure to [embarrass], discredit and incriminate police officers across the US.”

The group added that it hoped the disclosures would “demonstrate the inherently corrupt nature of law enforcement using their own words’’ and “disrupt and sabotage their ability to communicate and terrorize communities.”

­Anonymous and dangerous

Anonymous first surfaced in 2003 as a group whose primary purpose was to function in complete secrecy while carrying out attacks on the global establishment.

Despite supposedly rudimentary skills, the hacker group has been getting a lot of media attention for its actions against such high-profile bodies as the CIA, Visa, MasterCard, NATO, and the US Senate, to name a few. Anonymous is also known for targeting the websites of WikiLeaks’ adversaries.

The attacks have resulted in the release of sensitive documents and individuals’ personal information.

Although the Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly belittled the hacker group, calling them “Script Kiddies” (unskilled individuals who use scripts or programs developed by others to attack computer systems), the officials still acknowledge that the Anonymous has the capability to pose serious harm to the work of law enforcement agencies.