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Facebook and Gmail accounts help US officials track down Syrian Electronic Army hackers


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

March 23, 2016 | 3 min read

Three hackers from the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) have been identified by the US Justice Department after they carelessly used Gmail and Facebook accounts to communicate with each other.

Facebook and Twitter Syrian Electronic Army

The digital trail left by the three men, who are alleged to have been part of a multi-year hacking campaign against several companies and publishers, has led to the FBI issuing a warrant for their arrest. Additionally, they've been added to the US Cyber's Most Wanted list, with officials offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.

The SEA has in the past claimed responsibility for hacks to CNN, NPR, AP and Reuters, as well as Microsoft. Its most high-profile stunt took place in April 2013 when the accused hackers accessed AP's Twitter account and tweeted that there had been an explosion at the White House.

Ahmad Umar Agha, 22, Firas Dardar, 27 and Peter Romar, 36 have been charged with multiple conspiracies related to hacking, though detaining them may be tricky with the latter believed to be Germany-based and the former two situated in Syria.

In 2010, Agha registered a Gmail account and linked it with his phone number, the account also contained ID documents and wedding pictures. It was apparently used to exchange around 218 emails with Dardar, who had also signed up to Gmail.

Meanwhile, Romar reportedly maintained a Gmail account under the name 'Pierre Romar' and a Facebook account under the same alias. The feds found a copy of his German passport in his Gmail, along with job applications and messages to Dardar sent through Facebook, according to an official complaint.

Along with Twitter, Facebook and Google have been working with the US government and intelligence agencies to help form counter-terrorism measures on social media, which is increasingly being used as a platform by terrorist groups such as Isis.

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