In the face of widespread hacking by supporters of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Syrian exiles are trying a new tactic: Internet literacy protests. Members of the Union of Free Students in Syria, an inter-university resistance organization, held an Internet-based protest in the city of Homs and in Saudi Arabia. Protesters held signs with slogans like “Protecting Your Account = Protecting Your Friends: A Different Password for Each Account,” and “Assad’s Supporters Are Sending Dangerous Files With Hacked Accounts. Don’t Be Tricked: Check With Your Friends Before Opening An Attachment.”
There’s one very interesting thing about the signs: Most of them were written in English, not Arabic. The use of English indicates that the Union of Free Students’ audience isn’t just Syrian students. Instead, the Union is directly speaking to both the Syrian diaspora and to non-Arabic speaking Western sympathizers. By reminding associates to keep their accounts secure and to brush up on their online security, the organization is unintentionally recalling the frequent use of online security training among the Tibetan exile community in response to suspected attacks by Chinese hackers.
In recent weeks, hacker attacks against Syrian opposition members and the Western media have ramped up. Most of the attacks have been blamed on a pro-Assad organization called the Syrian Electronic Army, who have been engaged in a high-profile YouTube shouting match with Anonymous. This past Friday, unknown hackers broke into Reuters’ blogging platform and posted false reports from Syria under the bylines of Reuters journalists. The fake articles, which were written in stilted and non-idiomatic English, claimed that Syrian rebels were retreating from Aleppo and in the service of Israeli and Turkish intelligence.
Fast Company last reported on Syria’s cyberwar in June.