SEA and Anonymous, Allies by Convenience in Attacks on Turkey
War sometimes makes strange bedfellows, and the cyber battlefield is proving to be no different. Two prominent hacker collectives (or government organizations depending on who you ask) – the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) and Anonymous – jointly promoted and carried out recent attacks against the Turkish government despite having long been at odds.
This is an interesting development in the hacktivist landscape given that the SEA has targeted Anonymous properties on and off since the early days of Syria’s civil war when factions of Anonymous supported rebel efforts against Bashar al-Assad. But the surge of protests across Turkey during recent weeks brought the two hacker factions together over a common target: the Turkish government headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The campaign, dubbed #OpTurkey by Anonymous, so far includes the two groups shutting down and defacing official Turkish websites in addition to claiming hacks against the Turkish Prime Ministry’s network to gain access to personal information on Erdogan’s staff. Information allegedly procured by the attack on the government network was then publicly posted by both organizations independently.
This operation, jointly promoted and acted on by the SEA and Anonymous, provides another example of kinetic events serving as a leading indicator of cyber campaigns. Explicit signals for a new cyber campaign may not be openly available, but clues can be found in the history of hacktivist organizations and their typical causes for operation. In this case, it’s unsurprising to see Anonymous get behind a popular anti-government uprising while also serving as a platform for the SEA to strike against the Turkish government that formally recognized and supported the anti-Assad movement last November.