Three Syrian Electronic Army Hackers are in the FBI Most Wanted

Pierluigi Paganini March 23, 2016

Three members of the Syrian Electronic Army hacker crew have been inserted by the US authorities in the list of most wanted criminals.

The Syrian Electronic Army, aka SEA, is considered one of most dreaded hacking crew that first appeared in 2011. According to the report “Syrian Electronic Army – Hacktivision to Cyber Espionage?,” published in 2014, in the beginning, the Syrian Electronic Army was mainly politically motivated, members of the collective hacked to spread political messages pro Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

But over time, the group has increased its popularity, targeting principal enterprises like Microsoft and Twitter, and media agencies like The New York Times, Reuters, the Associated Press, E! Online, Time, CNN, The Washington Post, The Daily Dot, Vice, Human Rights Watch, Harvard University, NASA and The Onion.

The list of victims of the Syrian Electronic Army also includes the US CENTCOM and the White House.

As revealed by the reports the “SEA has evolved into the realm of global espionage, where some of their targets are “C” level executives at technology and media companies, allied military procurement officers, United States defense contractors, and foreign attaches and embassies.”

Now three members of the Syrian Electronic Army were inserted by the FBI in the FBI Most Wanted List, they are:

The three alleged members of the hacker collective are thought to be actually resident in Syria, it is impossible to arrest them over there.

The US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are willing to pay $100,000 reward for any information that leads to the capture of the alleged leaders of the Syrian Electronic Army.

Agha and Dardar have been added to the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

syrian electronic army FBI most wanted

The authorities believe that Ahmad Umar Agha and Firas Dardar were involved in the hacking of the Twitter Account of the Associated Press in April 2013, the hackers spread fake news of a cyber attack against the White House that had a serious effect on the stock market.

The hackers were involved in numerous hacking and propaganda campaigns from 2011 to 2013.

“According to allegations in the first complaint, beginning in or around 2011, Agha and Dardar engaged in a multi-year criminal conspiracy under the name “Syrian Electronic Army” in support of the Syrian Government and President Bashar al-Assad. ” reads the US Department of Justice (DoJ) statement .

“The conspiracy was dedicated to spear-phishing and compromising the computer systems of the US government, as well as international organizations, media organizations and other private-sector entities that the SEA deemed as having been antagonistic toward the Syrian Government” 

The FBI tracked the hackers online, in particular, the authorities obtained court orders to search their online accounts on Gmail and Facebook platforms. The hackers, in fact, used the popular services to communicate and exchange the stolen data.

The charges for Agha and Dardar are each charged with multiple conspiracies related to computer hacking including:

  • Engaging in a hoax regarding a terrorist attack
  • Attempting to cause mutiny of the US armed forces
  • Access device fraud
  • Illicit of authentication features
  • Unlawful access to stored communications
  • Unauthorized access to, and damage of, computers

Dardar and Pierre Romar, are separately charged with conspiracies related to:

  • Unauthorized access to, and damage of, computers
  • Receiving the proceeds of extortion
  • Money laundering
  • Wire fraud
  • Violations of the Syrian Sanctions Regulations

Nation-state hacking or cybercrime?

This is the position of the U.S. Assistant Director Trainor.

“Cybercriminals cause significant damage and disruption around the world, often under the veil of anonymity,” said Assistant Director Trainor.  “As this case shows, we will continue to work closely with our partners to identify these individuals and bring them to justice, regardless of where they are.”

“These three members of the Syrian Electronic Army targeted and compromised computer systems in order to provide support to the Assad regime as well as for their own personal monetary gain through extortion,” said Assistant Director in Charge Abbate.  “As a result of a thorough cyber investigation, FBI agents and analysts identified the perpetrators and now continue to work with our domestic and international partners to ensure these individuals face justice in the United States.  I want to thank the dedicated FBI personnel, federal prosecutors, and our law enforcement partners for their tremendous efforts to ensure on-line criminal activity is countered, U.S. cyber infrastructure is safeguarded, and violators are held accountable under the law.”

“The tireless efforts of U.S. prosecutors and our investigative partners have allowed us to identify individuals who have been responsible for inflicting damage on U.S. government and private entities through computer intrusions,” said U.S. Attorney Boente.  “Today’s announcement demonstrates that we will continue to pursue these individuals no matter where they are in the world.”

All of the three alleged members are thought to be resident in Syria. The United States government is inviting tip-offs.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Syrian Electronic Army, FBI Most Wanted list)

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