If you’ve ventured online today then you might have found images from the Syrian Electronic Army appearing where advertising should be. The activist group, which supports the Assad regime in Syria, has claimed responsibility for an advertising network hack that has been timed to coincide with Thanksgiving. It’s not a hugely significant security breach, as no user data has been exposed, but many websites across the Internet have been affected. Sites run by Forbes, The Chicago Tribune, CNBC, PC World, the NHL and Canadian broadcaster CBC are said to have been affected. It’s believed that the SEA’s route of attack was through the popular commenting platform Gigya.
On Thursday morning, some visitors to a diverse array of news and entertainment Web sites, including The Guardian, CNBC, NHL.com and Forbes, were greeted with an unusual pop-up message. “You’ve been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army(SEA),” the message read. For some readers, the return of SEA may seem like a blast from the past. For a period between 2011 to 2013, the group, which claimed to be a loose collective of hackers who supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, captivated the world with a series of high profile hacks. In particular, SEA targeted media organizations (including The Washington Post) that it perceived as hostile to the Syrian regime. A few of these hacks made a big impact: By hacking the Twitter account of the Associated Press, for instance, they were able to briefly convince much of the world that the White House had been bombed and send stocks tumbling. At other points, however, the hacks almost appeared to be a self parody: Their decision to target the Onion prompted ridicule and a brutal response from the satirical news site.