FBI adds Syrian Electronic Army hackers to most wanted list
Three members of the pro-Assad Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) have been added to the FBI's cyber most wanted list.
The men, named as Amad Umar Agha, Firas Dardar, and Peter Romar, have been charged with multiple counts of hacking and unlawful and unauthorised access to computer systems. The SEA is thought to be responsible for hacking the Associated Press Twitter account, which was used to claim the White House had been bombed. This led to a $136.5bn fall on Standard & Poor's 500 index.
Agha and Dardar, both believed to be in Syria, have now been added to the FBI's "Cyber Most Wanted" list, with the bureau putting up a reward of $100,000 each for information that leads to their arrest.
Romar, known online as "Pierre" has also been charged in connection with a scheme to extort US business for profit. The charges were made under seal in the Eastern District of Virginia, which was released on Tuesday.
The SEA has been linked to a string attacks since 2011, mostly focussed on western news organisations and technology companies. As well as hacking into the AP's Twitter account, the group has also been linked to attacks on ITV, The Onion, Outbrain, The New York Times, the US Marine Corps recruiting portal, Microsoft, eBay, Facebook, Forbes, The Sun, The Sunday Times, The Independent, Time Out, NBC, The Daily Mail and Le Monde, amongst others.
The attack against the US Marines Corps was particularly damaging, with the SEA defacing its website to encourage marines to "refuse [their] orders". In a statement, the FBI also linked the accused with attempted attacks on the computer systems of the Executive Office of the President in 2011.
Agha, 22, known online as "The Pro," and Dardar, 27 (AKA "The Shadow"), have been charged with a "multi-year" conspiracy to deface websites, redirect domains, steal emails and hijack social media accounts. According to the FBI the group used spear-phishing to trick people with privileged access into handing over account details.
Paul M. Abbate from the FBI's Washington field office said the accused had not only attacked computer systems to support the Assad regime but had also done so for "their own personal monetary gain". Assistant attorney general for national security John Carlin added that the complaints against the men exposed "the SEA membership's true colours".
The FBI said it was inviting tip-offs, either through an online form or at any US embassy or consulate.