Did Syrian Hackers Dig Deep Into U.S. Military Secrets?
Policy + Politics

Did Syrian Hackers Dig Deep Into U.S. Military Secrets?


Beware the ides of March, give or take a day. On March 14, the Syrian Electronic Army said it made good on a threat from earlier this month by posting a screen shot of what it says are more than 21,000 documents belonging to U.S. Central Command, also known as CENTCOM, which is responsible for overseeing military operations in the Middle East and other parts of Asia. The screen shot also includes document folders pertaining to several Air Force programs. 

“Operation targeting #CENTCOM are now in motion due to Obama’s decision to attack #Syria with electronic warfare,” the group, which is supportive of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said on its Twitter page. “This is part of an on-going operation and we have already successfully penetrated many central repositories.” 

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Several Pentagon officials have denied any intrusion took place. The Syrian Electronic Army has hacked into several prominent websites and Twitter feeds in recent years and lists the Associated Press and BBC among its victims. 

The next day a group called Cyber Berkut claimed responsibility for slowing and crashing some of NATO’s public websites. The group said it didn’t want NATO involved in events in Ukraine. 

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the cyber intrusion began on March 15 and continued into the next day. She said the attack affected some NATO websites but didn’t compromise the integrity of the Western military alliance’s data and systems. She didn’t say who was responsible for the attack. 

While the Syrian Electronic Army attack has yet to be verified, the two incidents are very different in terms of compromising military capabilities. Slowing or even crashing a public-facing website, as is the case with NATO’s situation, rarely affects military operations since any pertinent communications are encrypted or take place on classified networks. The group claiming responsibility for the NATO disruption has not claimed it accessed either of those. 

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The Syrian Electronic Army, however, said it gained entry to thousands of internal files, the contents of which are still unknown. The group promises an answer to that question shortly. 

“In the coming days we will update you with specific details and hundreds of documents that the #SEA has obtained,” the Syrian Electronic Army said yesterday. 

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