Syrian Accused of Hacking 3,500 Websites to Praise Charlie Hebdo Killers Detained in Bulgaria

REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files
REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files

A 21-year-old Syrian hacker who allegedly belongs to the jihadi “Middle East Cyber Army” has been detained by authorities in Bulgaria, where he has lived with his family for most of his life. The most notorious achievement of which he has been accused involved hacking 3,500 websites around the world to post messages praising the slaughter at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices in Paris.

The Bulgarian government is keeping the man’s name confidential, pending pre-trial proceedings, and is only now publicizing details of a raid on his house that was conducted June 13. International Business Times reports the raid seized computers and data storage containing advanced hacking tools the individual had created.

“The investigators claim that the 21-year-old used to communicate with other members of MECA through secure channels,” writes IBT. “The group would discuss plans and map out target websites before launching a full attack.”

Islamist groups compromised 20,000 websites in France after the murders in Paris, typically replacing the normal website with a black terrorist flag reading, “The Islamic State Stay Inshallah, Free Palestine, Death to France, Death to Charlie.” The first part of the message essentially means “May the Islamic State continue acting on Allah’s will.”

According to Deutsche Wellethe suspect is a “resident student” in Bulgaria.

The same report tangentially mentions a recent hacking attack on the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is a major source of information about the plight of civilians caught in the crossfire between al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the Assad regime.  There is no clear indication that the hacker detained in Bulgaria has any connection with the ISIS-aligned “Cyber Army of the Khilafah,” which carried out the attack on the Observatory’s systems, but it is interesting that the Observatory reports receiving cyber-attack threads from al-Qaeda and the Syrian government, as well as ISIS.