U.S. prosecutors filed an indictment yesterday for two alleged Syrian Electronic Army hacktivists who are accused of compromising news media websites and social media accounts in order to spread propaganda supporting the regime of Sryian president Bashar al-Assad.
The defendants, Ahmad Umar Agha (aka “the PRO” or “Th3 Pr0”) of Damascus, and Firas Dardar (aka “The Shadow) of Homs, were indicted in absentia in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Virginia. They are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and related activity, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and nine counts of aggravated identity theft.
The indictment asserts that Agha and Dardar employed spear phishing campaigns to steal employee credentials for targeted organizations’ computer systems and social media accounts. Then they “redirected legitimate traffic, defaced and altered text, sent messages using compromised social media and email accounts, attempted further phishing campaigns, and engaged in other unauthorized activities.”
The pair’s alleged reign of mischief took place between August 2011 and January 2014, during which time victims included the Washington Post, Reuters, National Public Radio, the Associated Press, E! Online, The Onion, CBB, the Daily Dot, the New York Post, Vice Media and Time Magazine.
Several political bodies, educational institutions, corporations and organizations were targeted as well, including the Executive Office of the President (EOP), Harvard University, the Human Rights Watch and Microsoft.
Agha and Dardar previously faced federal charges in March 2016.