New Report on Pro-Government Hackers in the Middle East

The OpenNet Initiative is pleased to share a report authored by Helmi Noman on the rise of the Syrian Electronic Army, a group of pro-government computer hackers that are actively targeting political opposition and Western websites:

Since the beginning of the popular uprisings and protests in the Middle East and North Africa, events in the region have been characterized by increased contestation in cyberspace among regime sympathizers, governments, and opposition movements. One component of this contestation is the tendency among governments and networks of citizens supportive of the state to use offensive computer network attacks. Such tactics are supplements to legal, regulatory, and other controls, and technical forms of Internet censorship.

For example, a group known as the Iranian Cyber Army has defaced Twitter and Iranian opposition websites. Also, Tunisian political activists and Yemeni oppositional websites have both accused their government security organizations of launching attacks on their sites in an attempt to silence their message and deny access to their content.

In this report, we document the activities of the Syrian Electronic Army, which appears to be a case of an open and organized pro-government computer attack group that is actively targeting political opposition and Western websites. Our aim is to assess to what extent we can find evidence of Syrian government assistance for the attack groups, and what the significance of the attacks themselves are for civil society and cyberspace contestation.

Noman is a Senior Researcher at the Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs (University of Toronto), and a Research Affiliate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University. The report, originally posted on the InfoWar Monitor site, is titled "The Emergence of Open and Organized Pro-Government Cyber Attacks in the Middle East: The Case of the Syrian Electronic Army."

A full version of the report is available here: The Emergence of Open and Organized Pro-Government Cyber Attacks in the Middle East: The Case of the Syrian Electronic Army

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