Lebanese TV channel lands on-camera interview with Syrian Electronic Army hackers

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(Photo: Al Mayadeen)

(Photo: Al Mayadeen)

Lebanese television channel Al Mayadeen will air the first television interview with self-proclaimed members of the Syrian Electronic Army Thursday evening, a member of the group told The Desk.

The pre-recorded interview will air on Al Mayadeen Thursday at 11:00 p.m. Syrian time, a member of the group called Th3 Pr0 told The Desk. Th3 Pr0 would not say which members were interviewed by the channel, but did say members who were interviewed would appear in shadow to protect their anonymity.

Members of the group have pushed back from on-air interview requests in the past, including several requests made by The Desk. In the past, hackers with the group have chosen to respond to media inquiries mostly by email and encrypted chat.

The on-camera interview with Al Mayadeen was conducted within the past week, Th3 Pr0 said. The SEA tweeted a promotional video for the interview on Wednesday.

Al Mayadeen is a relatively new channel broadcasting to Arabic-language speakers in the Middle East. With just over a year on the air, Al Mayadeen has earned a reputation of being the “anti-Al Jazeera,” with some media critics painting it as a channel aligned with the Syrian and Iranian regimes — charges that journalists at the channel dispute.

Still, Al Mayadeen’s reputation was almost certainly why hackers with the SEA agreed to the on-camera interview. Th3 Pr0 told The Desk that the channel was “more trusted than Al Jazeera.”

In 2012, the SEA began compromising blog platforms and social media accounts of western news organizations that published reports on the civil conflict in Syria that it objected to. Over the past year, the Syria-loyal hacker group has compromised social media accounts belonging to CBS News, AFP, the Guardian and others.

In April, the SEA compromised a Twitter account used by the Associated Press. The group used the account to send an erroneous news alert claiming President Barack Obama had been injured in an explosion at the White House. The tweet led to a brief drop in the Dow Jones market index before it became apparent the information was erroneous.

In August, a phishing attack on a domain name service (DNS) used by many news organizations led to a prolonged outage of the New York Times website and mobile apps. The attack also disrupted services used by Twitter.

The SEA’s attacks prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to issue a one-page memo last month warning government and private industry about the group. The unclassified memo, obtained by The Desk, cited the DNS and Associated Press Twitter attacks. The FBI said groups sympathetics to the SEA’s causes may attempt the same style attacks on other online services and urged “awareness of your network traffic and take appropriate steps in maintaining your network security.”

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