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How the Syrian Electronic Army Hacked The Onion 91

Posted by timothy
from the wore-goggles-so's-not-to-cry dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "For comedy publication The Onion, a recent cyber-attack by the Syrian Electronic Army was no laughing matter. The SEA managed to compromise The Onion's Twitter account, plastering it with insults aimed at the United Nations, Israel, and Syrian rebels. 'UN retracts report of Syrian chemical weapon use: "Lab tests confirm it is Jihadi body odor,"' read a typical (and perhaps one of the more printable) ones. When the Tweets appeared, some Onion Twitter-followers questioned whether the newspaper was playing some sort of elaborate meta-joke, perhaps riffing on a recent series of high-profile cyber attacks. But the SEA was serious, and so was The Onion about flushing the attackers from its systems. In a new posting on theonion.github.io, the publication's IT crew details exactly what happened. On May 3, attackers from the SEA fired off phishing emails to Onion employees, at least one of whom clicked on a malicious link. From there, the attackers compromised a handful of systems. 'In total, the attacker compromised at least 5 accounts,' the account concluded. 'The attacker logged in to compromised accounts from 46.17.103.125 which is also where the SEA hosts a website.' But following the crisis, The Onion couldn't resist swiping at its attackers. 'Syrian Electronic Army Has a Little Fun Before Inevitable Upcoming Deaths at Hands of Rebels,' read the headline for a May 6 article that described a fictional massacre of the SEA in gruesome detail."
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How the Syrian Electronic Army Hacked The Onion

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 09, 2013 @05:34PM (#43680317)

    Why would they target the Onion!? Do they not 'get it'?

    Chances are, no, they seriously don't get it.

    Think about it: In that area of the world, news is generally controlled by official government channels. I'm talking supposedly-legitimate sources which unironically use definitive, unambiguous phrases like "The Truth Of $NATION", "$NATION's One Voice", or The Onion's own "$NATION's Finest News Source" as their taglines. Then, add in the fact that a lot of what The Onion and other humor sources (i.e. The Daily Show) do are largely unheard of in these nations; direct mockery of the government is the sort of thing that gets a guy and his whole family beheaded in public out there. They might plain and simply not be used to that manner of humor.

    So, without the benefit of a culture that's accustomed to ironic sarcasm and mocking tones in print, combined with a lack of knowledge of how the US really works, and definitely without understanding the counter-cultural significance of The Onion in the first place, I can imagine them looking at this site which boldly proclaims itself to be "America's Finest News Source", presenting articles in a very dry, almost authoritative tone (to people unfamiliar with the English language or American culture), and seemingly chock full of news, and assuming this is a real thing and that attacking it will help get their message out to the important, news-reading people of what they consider to be the most powerful nation in the world.

  • by jfruh (300774) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @07:34PM (#43681145)

    This is wildly incorrect. You could tell form their posts that the Syrians knew exactly what the Onion was and were actually writing Onion-style headlines to promote their point of view. "UN admonishes Syria for getting in way of Jewish missles," that sort of thing.

  • by Alex Kasa (2867743) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @08:21PM (#43681403)
    While I get your point, and agree with you, you seem to have a wildly inaccurate view of what life in Syria was before the civil war. While you would not necessarily stand in the central square of Damascus and shout insults to the regime, you could still express your political opinions freely. Not all the media was state-controlled. Before the revolution, access to the internet was open and not censored.

    Middle-East != North Korea

    You and your family would not get beheaded in public under Assad for talking against the regime. It is quite ironic that Assad was actually quite a progressive leader compared to the US allies in the region (USA's Best Friends Forever Saudi Royal Family and Mubarak). While my whole heart goes to anyone seeking true democracy, a lot of the reason why Syria is in such a mess is because Assad is an Iranian ally supporting Hezbollah, and Israel and the West want that support for Hezbollah and Iran to go.

    Of course now Assad has crossed the line and there is only one way this will stop, he must go one way or the other. Only thing US and Israel didn't seem to calculate at first is that what's going to come after him is much, much less friendly. They're just starting to realize that now. As one commentator put it, "The Muslim Brotherhood leadership is waiting in hotels in Turkey, ready to take the reins once Assad is gone". Once again, we've played a role in overthrowing a secular regime and replacing it with an Islamist one. We're getting good at this.

    However you are right that many middle-easterners "don't get" western humor. Some see things like that and believe it is serious. Also, while here in the west you can openly joke about religion and God (even Christianity), they would not think those kind of things are funny. As usual, we say we're right and they're wrong. Truth is it's just a cultural difference and cultures are bound to clash in an open world with an open internet. It's not just between Westerners and Middle-Easterners though. I'm sure Chinese people look at American shows and think "WTF is honey boo boo? Jersey shore? USA dogs!"

"In the face of entropy and nothingness, you kind of have to pretend it's not there if you want to keep writing good code." -- Karl Lehenbauer

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