Hackers calling themselves the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) are causing serious trouble around the world.
The pro-Assad group may have scored its biggest hit last week, after the Associated Press Twitter account was hacked and tweeted a false story about a bomb at the White House that briefly caused stocks to plunge . The SEA have claimed responsibility for the hack.
Then, this week the SEA claimed they were behind a hack that took over several of the Guardian's Twitter accounts.
When Business Insider reached out to the group via their remarkably professional English-language website, we were put in touch with a member called Th3 Pr0 (pronounced The Pro), who has also talked to everyone from Vice to the Financial Times .
Th3 Pr0Th3 Pr0 says he is the "Leader Of Special Operations Department," though he says that the group of hundreds-to-thousands of members does not have a single leader.
According to his About.me page, Th3 Pr0 is just 18 years old.
Th3 Pr0hen asked about this week's Guardian attacks, Th3 Pr0 sent two screengrabs which appear to show him inside the accounts.
He also sent a screenshot that appears to show he had access to the AP Twitter account.
Th3 Pr0 also answered several questions over email. His unedited responses are below:
Business Insider: The SEA have attacked a variety of U.S.-news outlets in recent months, perhaps most notably the AP Twitter account. Could you explain why you choose to attack these media outlets?
Th3 Pr0: Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis our mission was to defend our country against the media campaign that they keep publishing fabricated/false news/reports about our homeland Syria in addition to make possible damage to the country who supports the terrorists groups in Syrian and sure the US government is in the top of the list.
BI: Have you been happy with the response to the hacks? For example, the Dow Industrial Index dropped significantly after the AP hack, how did you feel about that?
TP: Yes, and that was our goal of that hack attack ... it was a big victory for us.
BI: How difficult have these attacks been to pull off? Will things like two-step authentication on Twitter be difficult for you to get around?
TP: It was not easy and not hard either ... maybe will prevent some attacks but in the end we will take our target down whatever how secure it is.
BI: Where are you and the rest of the SEA-based? Are you all Syrian/of Syrian descent?
TP: The administration of SEA is based in Syria ... but some of our members are not in Syria but we all are Syrians.
BI: Do you receive payment for the hacks? If so, who is paying?
TP: Sure not, we don't need money for our work, Syria is our homeland and our duty to defend it.
BI: Your about.me page lists you as an 18-year-old. Are you in High School/College?
TP: Yes true, i'm now in the High School now and i will be in the college next year.
BI: Does the SEA take up much of your time? What do you like to do when not involved in SEA projects?
TP: Yes, but i'm trying to organize my time between working for SEA and studying ... I used to be a hacker before i joined the SEA.
BI: How do you think SEA's actions can affect the war in Syria?
TP: Its affect really ... we are trying to spread the truth about what is really happening in Syria through our social media accounts, website, in addition to our attacks.
BI: If Bashar al-Assad were to lose the conflict in Syria, would the SEA continue?
TP: We are not talking about one person here, we are talking about a whole country and people, if the President lose then Syrian and the Syrian people will lose, but Syria will not lose ... the right never lose.
We have not been able to verify Th3 Pr0's story. It is notably different than the story from some other outlets, however.
For example, one Guardian story reported that the group was now based out of Dubai and received financial backing from the Syrian government, via Assad's wealthy cousin Rami Makhlouf.
However, Th3 Pr0 clearly says he hacks for free and that the SEA is still based in Syria.
When we sent the Guardian article to Th3 Pr0, he responded (within one minute) with two links, and a brief comment:
"The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) sprang up in 2011 at the beginning of the anti-Assad revolution. According to defectors from inside its ranks, the group moved last year from Damascus to a secret base in Dubai."
"The attack was quickly identified and is in the process of being dealt with. The Guardian has since discovered the attack originated from Internet Protocol (IP) addresses within Syria."
They lied as always...
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