The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) is a “hacktivist” group that recently has revealed links to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. SEA has been making non-stop headlines in Syria, and has also established a notorious reputation amongst cyber security experts around the globe. Recently, the group got into the 5 Endurance International Group’s control systems via their web host. A number of web hosts were taken under siege including BlueHost, HostMonster, JustHost, FastDomain and HostGator during the cyber attack. Simultaneously, SEA hacked the Twitter account of BlueHost. Somehow, SEA got into the internal servers of the companies, which allowed them to have a free for all.
SEA has stated that the Endurance International Group web hosts were actually hosting terrorist websites—although if that is true, it is unknown whether or not the web hosts were aware of it. There has been an incredible amount of media coverage lately of whether or not a web host should be responsible for what their client’s host (such as the case with child pornography and other illegal activity). While courts and judges have not been inclined to such blame placement, that does not mean the tides can’t shift.
Proof in the Hosting?
In order to back up their claims, SEA posted screenshots of the control panels of the web hosts on Twitter, suggesting that the hosts were in fact offering services to terrorist groups. In response to the attack, Endurance International Group released a statement, “On Sunday evening (March 29), BlueHost’s Twitter account was compromised for a short period of time. We were able to regain control of the Twitter account within a few hours. We are continuing to investigate this matter, but are viewing this as an unfortunate case of cyber vandalism.”
Endurance International Group was careful not to reveal much information on the full impact of the damage. “We have taken all appropriate measures to ensure that our platform is secure and will continue to conduct a thorough review of this incident,” noted the statement. As one of the biggest web hosts in the world, Endurance International Group, Inc. has a big reputation to protect and a hack of this level does little to help their image.
Sailing the Rough SEA
SEA has seemingly since moved on, having just launched a new website of their own. However, contrary to popular opinion, the hacktivist group has denied any direct financial connections with President al-Assad’s regime. What is known about SEA is that it’s comprised of a team of hackers which first became known in 2011 in support of the President. Previous hacks include getting into Xbox Support’s Twitter account as well as Microsoft and Skype blogs. Phishing is their specialty, and they have a penchant for Twitter accounts in particular.
When hacking into companies like Endurance, it seems that SEA is flexing their power and causing some minor anarchy instead of actually targeting a specific demographic for something more serious, like identity theft. That is relatively good news for their victims, but serves as a reminder that cyberattacks are more common—and easier—than many people think.