Digital Conflict

By Kevin Coleman

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Kevin Coleman

Syrian conflict goes cyber

Syria is clearly in a state of civil war. It is hard to escape the massive coverage this unrest has received since the conflict began about 18 months ago. However, the cyber side of the conflict has not received anywhere near that level of coverage. There are so many cyber skirmishes taking place it would not be possible to cover all of the events, so here are a few of the more interesting cyber exchanges.

Most recently the two sides exchanged cyber fire in a dis-information campaign. The media giant Reuters became an unwilling participant in this exchange.  One of the media giant’s blogs was accessed and inaccurate and unauthorized reports that rebel forces were gaining ground in Syria suddenly appeared. Then Reuter’s Twitter feed was used by hackers, it was renamed and began falsely tweeting about a rebel collapse in Aleppo. These cyberattacks were not very sophisticated, but that just shows the current state of cyber insecurity. Some feel these acts have undermined the media’s integrity, but the media companies found it and timely reported on it so the impact is marginal at best. 

Particularly interesting is that on July 19, in a split second, Syria as a nation was disconnected from the Internet for 40 minutes. The cause of this is unknown and like most questions asked of the government have not been answered. But wait it gets better. The top cyber incident had to be when an account of a foreign diplomat was accessed and used to release a statement that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was dead. What might come next is anyone’s guess.

It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that the Syrian military and the rebel factions have developed or acquired cyber weapons and are using them.  It's in line with modern military thinking and will be a part of modern conflict from this point on. Clearly, the exchange of cyber fire in Syria will undoubtedly continue for the foreseeable future.  What is the most interesting aspect of all this was that Reuters, the unwilling participant, was the biggest loser in this battle.

Posted by Kevin Coleman on Aug 16, 2012 at 9:26 PM

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