While the U.S. prepares for a unilateral strike against Syria, and with the UN and NATO allies in the Middle East breathing down Assad’s neck, it would seem like the last thing the Syrian Electronic Army would want to do is attack U.S. websites – especially considering that the only thing holding back a full-blown military assault on Syria is the polling numbers showing that 91% of the American public oppose it. Looking at the evidence, it looks more like a false flag perpetrated by the Israeli Elite Strike Force to try to sway dumbed-down Americans’ opinions to support war in Syria. Let’s consider the evidence.
The type of attack used to take down the NYT and Twitter was an old-fashioned, rather elementary attack known as a DNS attack (Domain-name-system attack). Whoever performed this hack also went above and beyond to target their third-party DNS provider/”Internet phone book”, Melbourne IT (an Australian firm that services over 350,000 customers, including the New York Times), which is pretty unusual, as well.
Furthermore, DNS attacks are the mainstay of the Israeli Elite Strike Force, and have been used extensively in Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and several north African countries since April, when the strike force began operations. Also, instead of just performing a DNS operation by itself with no messages or warnings, the Israeli team tends to brag about their exploits, telling people who stumble upon the website what they’ve done. This is unusual, and has been a recurring theme in the recent NYT/Twitter/Washington Post hacks: On Melbourne IT’s blog, a message was written and a creepy .jpg was uploaded to the NYT during the hack:
“Hacked By SEA,” it read. “Your servers [sic] security is very weak.”
Al-Monitor elaborates on Israeli hacking:
While many might not know this, the largest, most expensive and most important division in the IDF today — and for quite a few years already — is what is known as Unit 8200, better known as eight-two hundred. This is the huge IDF surveillance and intelligence unit. Drawing the brightest, most feverish and creative minds from among Israeli youths, it is responsible for a large part of the excellent, high-quality and rare intelligence that enables the IDF to do what it occasionally does.
The heroes of Israel’s future wars will not be dust-covered tankers, anonymous pilots or paratroopers in red berets. Those heroes would be the techies, hackers, web and high-tech geeks that lie around in the halls and rooms of Israeli intelligence, bombarding their bosses with ideas, developments and new devices.
Israel is a global high-tech leader, and 8200 and similar units in the IDF, Shin Bet and Mossad are the hotbed where the start-up entrepreneurs of the future Israel can be found.
The Media Line gives us further information:
Israel, along with the US, has been credited with the stuxnet, the computer worm that targeted Iran’s nuclear program. At a recent conference on cyber security, Netanyahu said there has been an increase in attempted cyber attacks by Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas on essential systems in Israel, including Israel’s water system, electric system, trains and banks.
Ron Porat of Hacktics, which specializes in discovering and repairing security breaches like the one that hit the New York Times, says that almost everyone, whether they know it or not, is under cyber attack.
“Everyone needs to take special precautions all the time,” he said. “Even if you’re not a direct target, you’re an indirect target to someone trying to do something to someone else.”
Even before the latest crisis surrounding Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, Israel had begun putting more of its emphasis on cyber warfare. A new plan unveiled in July said that Israel planned to give up hundreds of tanks, dozens of fighter jets, and thousands of career army staff. At the same time, Israel is pouring large amounts of money and effort into cyber warfare, both fighting it and executing it.
In fact, Israel recently defined cyber warfare as a fifth realm of warfare alongside land, sea, air and space. The new command brings together personnel from Intelligence and Teleprocessing to ward off cyber attacks.
Back in March, the Jersusalem Post outlined the new “Cyber Rules of War”:
In this vacuum, the US and Israel have launched highly aggressive and successful cyber warfare attacks on Iran, which have been largely credited for slowing down the country’s believed clandestine nuclear weapons program significantly and buying more time for sanctions and diplomacy to handle the issue.
That is why Obama’s new potential rules of restraint with cyber warfare are surprising and may significantly impact Israel’s ability to act aggressively in the future.
Unnamed senior US officials involved in developing the first set of US cyber warfare rules of engagement (essentially self-enforced legal limitations) leaked aspects of the new rules to The New York Times in February.
A few of the rules were highly significant because they impose restrictions not required by the laws of armed conflict.
… Limiting the use of cyber warfare to presidential approval is an extremely restrictive approach, normally limited only to use of nuclear weapons, as getting presidential approval takes time – something that can have a serious cost in warfare.
…In addition to the more general rule, the US has specifically ruled out automatic counterattacks pending US efforts to more carefully determine where the attack emanated from..
…Why does this more conservative approach matter to Israel? First, in most areas where Israel has received tolerant and patient legal reactions to more controversial warfare tactics, it has been where these tactics overlapped with newly aggressive American tactics.
In other words, few are ready to try to sanction or boycott the US and, when the US is fighting asymmetrical warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq using aggressive methods and interpretations of the laws of armed conflict, the pressure on Israel is also somewhat reduced.
Similarly, Israel might or might not have engaged in aggressive and offensive cyber warfare tactics against Iran without US cover, but US cover again certainly blunts criticism of such preemptive covert methods as violating international law.
But all of this can work against Israel if the US acts more conservatively.
Despite the success of the cyber warfare attacks on Iran, the US appears to be signaling a strategic retreat in offensive cyber warfare to a more defensive posture.
Now, if Israel goes it alone in a cyber warfare attack, it may have significantly less cover from legal criticism.
… In mid-February China was accused of hitting the US with cyber attacks, and both Israel and the US claim to have been victims recently – in Israel there are also allegations that many banks, telecoms and others have been hit but kept it quiet – with a noticeable increase after the attacks on Iran.
Besides the Washington Post and New York Times hacks, the attacks on Twitter, The Huffington Post and others (about 10 other websites) seem to be limited and somewhat unsuccessful ; However, that won’t stop people like Janet Napolitano crowing about a coming cyber-apocalypse in America, and nothing will frustrate an American faster than a slow-loading page or a favorite website being hacked and taken offline. On Wednesday, for instance, Akamai showed an 81% increase in hacking attacks in the U.S., and just last week, Nasdaq trading – which handles billions of dollars in capital flows on an hourly basis – broke down. This is why I believe that this was a false-flag operation to encourage the American population to want to go to war with Syria.
According to the Irish Times, the SEA certainly wasn’t sheepish about the hack, seemingly taking full responsibility from beginning to end:
Ries shared a link showing that the admin name and email for the domain name “twitter.com” had been changed to “SEA SEA” and “[email protected]” respectively.
This would be very silly of the Assad regime, since we have our military sitting right off of their coastline, ready to literally send Al-Qaeda to kill Assad like we did Gaddhafi and drag his dead body through the streets over the phony “chemical weapons attack” claims.
The Washington Post has claimed that the SEA has taken credit for the attacks, but there is no link given to the statement, which questions the authenticity of that claim. CBS News promotes this claim by pointing out that a “Twitter message” by the SEA stated, “the media is going down…” right before the hacks occurred, but this isn’t exactly proof of the attack, nor is it helpful in assessing whether they took credit for it or not.
However, there is always the chance that the Syrian Electronic Army did perform these attacks, but their justfication in doing so – posted by ABC News – seems to be validated:
“When we hacked media we do not destroy the site but only publish on it if possible, or publish an article [that] contains the truth of what is happening in Syria,” the alleged member, who goes by SEA The Shadow online, told ABC News in an email exchange late Wednesday. “So if the USA launch attack on Syria we may use methods of causing harm, both for the U.S. economy or other.”
“All American sites will be our targets and we may be more destructive,” the hacker said.
The authenticity of this person is in question, though, and we have no way of knowing who this individual really works for.
In the end, even the New York Times’ Chief Information Officer admitted that it could be someone else claiming to be the SEA who carried out the DNS attacks:
In an interview, Mr. Frons said the attack was carried out by a group known as “the Syrian Electronic Army, or someone trying very hard to be them.”
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