Visitors to the news portion of Vice.com – part of an international media brand that concentrates on arts, culture and other news – on Friday evening may have been surprised by a headline that read, “Syrian Electronic Army Was Here.”
The post – which had ‘SEA' on the byline – was simply a brief (below).
“Your website was hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army,” it stated in large letters. “This time we just deleted the article that you claimed in it that you exposed “TH3PR0” identity. But you didn't. You published names of innocent people instead. The second time we will delete all your website. Special hi from TH3PR0 :) Done.”
The text was spaced out carefully beneath the avian logo – boldly emblazoned in the main body of the article – that is used frequently by the pro-Assad hacktivists.
Vice.com administrators removed the notice with the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) byline within an hour of its posting. Visitors to the Vice.com website were then redirected to a website that belongs to the hacker group for a period of time.
Vice.com has not issued a statement and a spokesperson did not respond to a SCMagazine.com request for comment.
Th3 Pr0 – the exact spacing and spelling of the hacker name varies across publications – is reportedly a 19-year-old hacker with ties to the SEA. The August Vice.com article, “Is This the Leader of the Syrian Electronic Army?” is reportedly what caused SEA to act.
As the hacker collective has done in the past, it took to Twitter to post in real-time about its ongoing exploits and the group even went so far as to post pictures of the Vice.com website administration panel, as well as a hacked email that appears to be from a Vice.com staffer.
According to reports, which were retweeted by the hacker collective on Twitter, the SEA was able to gain privileged access to the Vice.com website by compromising email addresses belonging to at least one administrator. Along the way it appears that Vice.com mailing lists were affected as well.
The SEA has made a name for itself recently by finding sneaky ways to compromise websites – particularly media websites – most notably through the use of well-designed phishing emails. Some of the group's latest hacks include websites belonging to The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and Time.
In September, the SEA was elevated to the FBI's most wanted list.