Gaining momentum in 2013-2014, the Syrian Electronic Army garnered attention for hijacking Twitter accounts affiliated with the Associated Press and Reuters among others and for compromising the online properties of popular news media outlets including the New York Times and Forbes. By taking advantage of vulnerabilities in the info security of these and other well-known organizations, they succeeded in gaining publicity for themselves while illustrating the pervasive threat of and potential damage inflicted by cyber attacks.
Tactics Used by the Syrian Electronic Army
The Syrian Electronic Army is a loosely organized collective of hactivists, or hackers with an ideological motive. Although not directly affiliated with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the group is known for distributing propaganda in support of his regime. Some of the tactics of hactivism they use to attack those deemed "opponents" of the regime include spear-phishing, Web site defacement using SQL injection, DNS hijacking, fabricating Facebook and YouTube sites to collect log-in credentials and spread malware, and disseminating DDoS attack tools. Using their Web sites and social media accounts, the Syrian Electronic Army has been able to recruit and educate sympathizers, report on successful hacking operations, and leak stolen information.
Dealing with the Threat of the Syrian Electronic Army and Other Hactivist Groups
For organizations with an online presence vital to their business, cyber attackers like the Syrian Electronic Army represent a significant and growing threat. Some excellent first steps your company can take to alleviate this type of threat are:
- Implementing employee education on phishing and other social engineering tactics used to gain access to corporate accounts, databases and systems
- Performing regular vulnerability assessments and thorough vulnerability management on all of your Web sites and applications to prevent defacement, SQL injection and cross-site scripting
- Incorporating into your on-site infrastructure network security tools such as firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and network scanning solutions
If ensuring the availability, integrity, and confidentiality of your Web sites and applications are a priority for your organization, you may want to take additional steps to defend against outsized, distributed threats like DDoS attacks and to prevent performance degradation during an attack—something difficult to do with perimeter-based network security products alone.
Akamai's cloud-based Web Security Solutions offer our customers a cost-effective, multi-layered security solution to protect their online presence, business and reputation from the threat of cyber attacks—no matter how massive. Leveraging the unmatched scalability, flexibility, and superior redundancy of the global Akamai Intelligent Platform, our Kona Site Defender DDoS prevention and Web Application Firewall services detect and absorb or block attacks targeted at your DNS infrastructure as well as at the network and application layers. Akamai's cloud-based distributed Web Security Solutions thwart attacks upstream, before they reach your data center.
Learn more about how Akamai's Web Security Solutions can help protect your Web sites and applications.