Our favorite hacker group of questionable motivations, Anonymous, has set its sights on its next target: Syrian president Bashar Assad. Late on Sunday night, Anonymous gained access to 78 different e-mail accounts at the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affairs, including that of the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Mansour Fadlallah Azzam, and Assad’s media adviser, Bouthaina Shaaban.
The Israeli news organization Haaretz was able to obtain some of the e-mails, and posted them online for all to read.
Sadly, it’s clear that no one bothered to give Assad’s office a lesson in basic computer security, because several of the accounts apparently had the password 12345. C’mon, guys, your password should never be sequential or easy to guess! We learned not to do that in the fifth grade!
But what’s more damning is the content of the e-mails themselves, particularly the ones from the run-up to Assad’s ABC News interview with Barbara Walters last December, in which Assad denied that Syrian citizens were being targeted and killed by the government and army. “We don’t kill our people … no government in the world kills its people, unless it’s led by a crazy person,” Assad told Walters at the time.
The e-mails from Assad’s press advisers suggest the president knew otherwise, and coached Assad on specific ways to deflect common American criticisms:
“It is hugely important and worth mentioning that ‘mistakes’ have been done in the beginning of the crises because we did not have a well-organized ‘police force.’ American psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are ‘mistakes’ done and now we are ‘fixing it.’ It’s worth mentioning also what is happening now in Wall Street and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by policemen, police dogs and beatings.”
Nothing is perhaps more strange than finally seeing your homeland’s bizarre press habits reflected through the eyes of a foreigner.
The political situation in Syria continues to deteriorate today — the United States and several other gulf nations have removed their ambassadors and closed embassies in the country. Looks like Anonymous just gave them more reason to do so.