Syrian Hackers Infiltrate Rebel Computers

Early in December of 2013, a Syrian rebel fighter was contacted by a woman from Lebanon named Iman Almasri. Her picture was that of a young fair-skinned woman in her 20s, and she chatted with him for almost two hours. They both seemed to be in opposition against Bashar al-Assad, who came into power after the civil war. She claimed to be an employee in a programming company, and asked him if he was communication through a computer or smartphone. The Syrian rebel fighter soon sent Almasri a picture of himself and requested a picture from her. She quickly sent one over to him.syrianhackers

Unbeknownst to the Syrian rebel fighter at that time, the photo was actually carrying a piece of malware that copied his files. Many of the files contained vital information that exposed the Syrian rebels, such as tactical plans and information on both the fighter and his allies. Under the guise of young women, hackers working for Assad had successfully infiltrated rebel computers.

The hackers used a very old exploit to retrieve information on the Syrian rebels. His or her identity remains unknown, as well as whether the information was fully utilized by the Syrian military. It is believed that the hackers originated in Lebanon, and used a computer server in Germany, where many of their chats were found by FireEye, a computer security firm. Many of the individuals exposed by the hack were unaware that their information was leaked, and did not know that their computers and phones were compromised. The information would prove to be a huge advantage for Assad and his forces, especially in military intelligence and on the battlefield. This goes to show that even a low-tech hacking group can cause a huge threat to any national cyber infrastructure.

Benny Tan