Syria Files, Wikileaks, Anonymous and dirty affairs

Pierluigi Paganini July 10, 2012

Big outcry on Wikileaks that last week has published more that 2.4 million emails allegedly obtained from continuous hack against Syrian government and organizations connected to the regime.

The correspondence of “Syrian political figures, ministries and associated companies” between August 2006 and March 2012 has been defined embarrassing for the government of Damascus and its allies, but the email also reveal uncomfortable truths on the West governments actions.

It’s the case of Finmeccanica affiliate Selex Elsag that sold to Syria its Tetra network for encrypted communications. The deal was made in 2008, before the beginning of the Arab Spring, but some emails leaked show ongoing relationship between the regime and the Italian company.

The email demonstrate the intermediary role of Greek company Intracom, an email dated February 2nd, 2012 discusses ”the arrival of Selex engineers in Damascus to train Intracom Syria technicians on Tetra technology, including at helicopter terminals. The email does not specify whether they are police or military helicopters,”

The Italian firm replied with an official communicate:

“The Tetra system, supplied by Selex Elsag to Syria in 2008,” was intended for use by organizations for emergency and rescue (‘public safety’). The technology provided and Tetra ‘was designed precisely with this purpose’, ie to use only civil and not military. Any other use that has been done and ‘out of control” Selex Elsag”

“WikiLeaks’ Sarah Harrison announced at London’s Frontline Club that the emails are evidence of collaborations between the Syrian government and Western companies.

“material is embarrassing to Syria” but claims that Syria’s opponents will equally be ashamed. “It helps us not merely to criticize one group or another, but to understand their interests, actions and thoughts. It is only through understanding this conflict that we can hope to resolve it.” Harrison said.

WikiLeaks hasn’t revealed it source and hasn’t provided further information of the total amount of stolen email.

To give more emphasis to the sensational news are claims of Anonymous group who has taken responsibility for the attacks which have made possible the theft of email.

It’s seems that groups belonging to Anonymous have hacked Syrian governments stealing the valuable documents.

“On Febuary 5, 2012 at approx. 4:00 PM ET USA an Anonymous Op Syria team consisting of elements drawn from Anonymous Syria, AntiSec (now known as the reformed LulzSec) and the Peoples Liberation Front succeeded in creating a massive breach of multiple domains and dozens of servers inside Syria,” the hacktivists wrote in a statement.

Many hacktivists taking part in the Op Syria were working inside Syria.

“This team had been working day and night in shifts for weeks to accomplish this feat. So large was the data available to be taken, and so great was the danger of detection that the downloading of this data took several additional weeks.”

The hackers released a small portion of the data on March 14, including the personal correspondence between Assad and his wife.

The timeline of the attacks is:

03 febbraio 2012

Al-Arabiya reports that a hacker based out of Saudi Arabia, identified as Salman Al-Anzi, claims to have hacked the private email accounts of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. He also hacks a number of Syrian ministries, the Al-Arabiya TV Channel and threatens to reveal 4GB of Assad´s personal correspondence.

05 febbraio 2012

Anonymous not only successfully breaches into the network of Assad´s office, but also manages to steal hundreds of emails including those disclosing details of the president´s plans for his highly anticipated interview with ABC´s Barbara Walters. The target of the attack is the mail server of the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affairs and about 78 inboxes of Assad´s aides and advisers.

It’s not first time that Wilileaks and Anonymous collaborate, let’s remind their alliance that produced the exposure of data stolen to Stratfor firm.

Files were released to the public, the hackers decided to let the controversial website disclose the Syria Files as well.

The collective also declares:

“While the United Nations sat back and theorized on the situation in Syria, Anonymous took action. Assisting bloggers, protesters and activists in avoiding surveillance, disseminating media, interfering with regime communications and networks, monitoring the Syrian internet for disruptions or attempts at surveillance,”

“And as long as the tyrant remains defiantly in power, Anonymous will continue to work relentlessly day and night – from every country and every timezone, to assist the courageous freedom fighters and activists in Syria,”

As published on several specialist web sites the hacked emails include:

  • Correspondence from the Baath party
  • Contains information on foreign affairs, finance and Assad’s presidential business
  • Records of financial transfers from Syrian ministries to nations
  • Over 68,000 are in Russian

The documents details for example the profitable business between Assad’s government and Russia.

Some sources speak of plotting against the Syria organized by Israel and US, in this theory Anonymous gained information from foreign servers in Syria with U.S. Cyber Command directed “hacks”, the command in fact acquired data on Syrian government using the malware Flame.

Is it possible that the branch of Anonymous responsible for the attacks is in reality a group of CIA agents that misuse the hacktivist brand?

The attack began on February, on 3rd a Saudi hacker named Salman Al-Anzi claimed first hack followed two days later by more operations of Anonymous.

It’s impossible to reply to this question, all the attacks had precise targets, governments email accounts and mail severs, the type of attacks gives evidence that attacker had a deep knowledge of the victim and its infrastructures.

The attack began on February, on 3rd a Saudi hacker named Salman Al-Anzi claimed first hack followed two days later by more operations of Anonymous.

The precision of the attacks for many experts is proof that behind the operations of the famous group in reality there are government agencies like the CIA who have great interest in sabotaging the Syria government.

The scenario is complex and it is impossible to hazard a hypothesis, it is clear that in times like this many are speculating and misinformation in order to be able to take personal advantage.

In this story, covering the images of the massacres, I find disgusting that western companies have reinforced authoritarian regimes like Syria.

The real scandal is the florid market for digital control and surveillance in which Western companies sell technologies with impunity to authoritarian regimes, enabling them to spy on and suppress any opposition. An estimated annual turnover of five billion dollars.

I conclude with a sentence of Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd, taken borrowed from an interview with cyber expert Stefano Mele,

“Most companies will say publicly that they are doing everything possible to protect citizens when in fact they are doing endless concessions and taking policy decisions that will eventually damage them.”

We hope she is wrong

Pierluigi Paganini

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