As President Obama weighed U.S. air strikes in Syria this week, a lone American hacker was waging his own attack on the Syrian government. He works a white-collar job in the United States by day, while at night he’s on the digital front lines of the civil war in Syria, where hacktivists on both sides of the conflict are fighting to deliver their messages over cyberspace.
The American, who identified himself with the pseudonym “Oliver Tucket,” contacted me over the weekend. He shared copies of two Syrian government documents he said he had gleaned from a hacked server. The shy, earnest, clean-cut young professional of about 30 says he doesn’t have any specific ties to the Syrian conflict but was upset about the actions of the Syrian government and wanted to embarrass the Assad regime.
Online attacks have become one more front in modern warfare. But the Internet’s global reach gives those cyber battles a more freewheeling character than conventional warfare. Smart hackers around the world can insert themselves into volatile situations to embarrass enemies, draw attention to pet causes, or cause mischief.
Tucket says he was surprised at just how weak the Syrian regime’s network defenses were. Evidently, as the government has become overwhelmed with the country’s raging civil war, network security hasn’t been a priority. And with the U.S. government on the brink of launching airstrikes in the country, the security of Syria’s IT systems might not be improved any time soon.
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