The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) is a hacker collective that has made its name disrupting media outlets it perceives as against Syrian President Bashar Assad and sympathetic to Syrian rebel forces. The anonymous hackers have previously infiltrated the Associated Press, the BBC, Al Jazeera, and the Onion, a parody news site.
Yet the most important operation done by the SEA was hacking the SCADA systems of the Israeli port city of Haifa over ten days ago.
Twelve posts were published on the Financial Times' website Friday afternoon with the title "Hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army." The news organization's official Twitter feeds bore a similar message, reading "The Syrian Electronic Army was here." One tweet, quickly removed, linked to a YouTube video of an execution.
"We have now locked those accounts and are grateful for Twitter's help on this," Robert Shrimsley, the managing editor of FT.com, said in the Financial Times. "Unfortunately this is an increasingly common issue for major news organizations."
Earlier this week the New York Times reported it "was subjected to denial of service attacks," meaning the outlet's web site was "temporarily unavailable to a small number of users".
By instigating a distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) hackers falsify Internet users and turn them onto one specific page, overwhelming that site with traffic. The New York Times would not reveal whether the SEA or another group was responsible for the DDoS attack earlier this week.
Real consequences of an attack showed themselves last month when the SEA announced, under the guise of the Associated Press' Twitter, that the White House had been attacked and US President Barack Obama was injured. Stocks on Wall Street immediately plummeted before the confusion lifted.
But the cyberattack on Haifa was certainly a boost in the platform of SEA operations as it required much more sophisticated knowledge and capabilities compared with the previous hackings; giving the Syrian Electronic Army the opportunity to rise to a different level of fame.
The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) launched a successful cyberattack on the main infrastructure system of Haifa, one of the most important ports in Israel, on May 4, disrupting the operation of the servers in charge of urban management systems and public utilities in the city.
The SEA said it has hacked into the Haifa infrastructural system at around 22:00 (local time) May 4, underlining that the hacking was done in retaliation for the recent Israeli strike on a research center in suburban Damascus.
"We would like to announce that in response to the unfair and illegal attacks of Israel on DATE, the SEA has penetrated one of the main infrastructural systems (SCADA) in Haifa and managed to gain access to some sensitive data," SEA said in a message left for the Israeli operators of Haifa SCADA system.
"Also, the SEA is now able to cause irrecoverable damage to the Israelis' infrastructural systems," it added.
Israel staged an airstrike on Syria earlier in the month, hitting the Jamraya research center in the vicinity of the Syrian capital, Damascus. Syria said the Israeli regime had carried out the airstrike - the third in the last few months - after heavy losses were inflicted on al-Qaeda-affiliated groups by the Syrian army.
The SEA warned that it could cause a major blast by continuing the attack on the servers of the Haifa infrastructural systems, but avoided further move due to inescapable human casualties as it did not want a story like the recent accident in Texas which claimed the lives of dozens of the people.
"This message carries a serious warning to the Israeli statesmen. They should know that not receiving a quick reaction to such childish ventures does not show the Syrian inability in doing so, but it is based on wisdom and humanity considerations. We do not approve of killing civilians and innocent people as this is an Israeli type of solution," added the message.
"Also an advice to those who left their homelands for many years, dreaming a happy and safe life, deceived by politicians whose deed is much far from their slogans; Do the best to express your objection to Israeli policies, since we do not like to see innocent people getting killed like in Texas, US, but this time in Haifa."