With one swift strike at the heart of our consumer media, the Syrian Electronic Army has revealed itself as being at the forefront of a new era of cyber attacks.
On Thursday, November 27, this state-funded group of hackers took down a clutch of major media websites – including The Independent, Daily Telegraph, Forbes, OK! Magazine, Evening Standard in a daring piece of thoroughly 21st century conflict.
Visitors to these pages were greeted with a warning message saying that the site had been hacked, before it displayed the organisation’s logo on a black background.
Industry experts claim that the hack happened after the Syrian group gained access to Gigya, the third-party platform that delivers ads to the affected sites.
While the Telegraph sorted its issues out swiftly and resumed a normal service for readers, the Independent site continued to displayed only the hacked page for several hours.
The Syrian Electronic Army hacked The Sunday Times and Sun websites back in June and also compromised The Guardian in 2013. It is clear that in the arena of modern conflict, the battle for supremacy on the internet is prized every bit as much as any piece of land or national border.
Hacking prominent news sites is the 2014 mass communication equivalent of the leaflet drops that the Allies carried out over German cities during The Second World War to spread propaganda.
What’s more, the Syrians’ ability to strike at the heart of sophisticated Western communications systems in this way will also instil a real sense of fear as to what they may have the capability to do next. Whatever it is, you can bet you’ll read about it online first.