News websites critical of the Assad regime, and high-traffic websites including a popular computer game reviews site, and the National Hockey League have been hacked today by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA).
Newspapers the Independent, the Evening Standard, the Telegraph, were hacked to display a Syrian eagle, as were popular sites OK! Magazine, computerandvideogames.com, and the NHL. While some sites appear to have been chosen in line with the ordinary aims of the SEA to shut down news sources opposing the Syrian Regime, others may have been targeted during a popular American holiday to gain maximum exposure as people go online during their leisure time.
The hack appears to have exposed a weakness in the websites’ content delivery network, which sent users to an external website showing the eagle superimposed over black. After at least two hours, the problem still appears to be affecting the Independent.
The Guardian quotes the remarks of Ernest Hilbert, security consultant at Kroll Cyber, who said: “It is a DNS takeover, and this is what the Syrian Electronic Army does. Normally, you type in a URL, it goes to a domain name server, and it says ‘those words equal this website’.
“But not every user can get in through one connection, particularly at bigger sites. A CDN means that, because you can’t all fit in through the same door, it sends you to another one, another version of the content. And one of those versions, which hosts copies of all these affected sites, appears to have been compromised by the Syrian electronic army”.
This is not the first high profile attack by the group, who are sponsored by the rump Syrian government and operate out of several locations in the Middle East. In the past they have attacked the Guardian for criticising the Assad regime. Other targets have included the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Sun and the Sunday Times.