News / Middle East

Cyber War for US, Syria?

Cyber War for US, Syria?i
X
March 05, 2014 12:02 AM
The Syrian government and its allies are widely believed to be using cyberattacks to target members of the opposition. Meanwhile, the Obama administration reportedly has been debating the use of cyberattacks to disrupt the Syrian government's military, but has been hesitant to do so. More from VOA's Kent Klein
Kent Klein
The Syrian government and its allies are widely believed to be using cyber attacks to target members of the opposition. Meanwhile, the Obama administration reportedly has been debating the use of cyber attacks to disrupt the Syrian government's military, but has been hesitant to do so.
 
While violence rages in Syria, not all of the conflict is taking place in the streets. Some of it is happening in cyberspace.
 
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has spent more than two years studying malware campaigns against Syrian dissidents and opposition members. 
 
The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its supporters are to blame, says the Foundation's global policy analyst Eva Galperin.
 
"They are all being run by a very, very limited number of groups.  And the organizations with the strongest reason to spy on people in this fashion would be the Assad regime," says Galperin.
 
At the Washington-based Syrian Emergency Task Force, Evan Barrett says social media sites are used to identify Syrians for detention or torture.

“Syrian activists are confident that the regime is doing this, and feel that there are people who have been sort of rounded up and detained, where there’s no way that the regime could have known about their activities except through online surveillance,” says Barrett.
 
News reports say the Obama administration is discussing using cyber attacks to disrupt Syrian military operations, especially the barrel bombing of civilians.
 
Barrett says that would be a low-cost way to limit human suffering. 
 
“Even if we can only delay bombing of civilian areas for a week or two weeks, that seems like an important accomplishment to me,” says Barrett.
 
The U.S. has used cyber attacks in the past, against Iran's nuclear facilities, through the computer virus Stuxnet and other reported operations.
 
But some in the U.S. intelligence community say the effectiveness of the attacks is limited.
 
Barrett says his group asked the National Security Council in 2012 to wage cyber warfare against Syria, and was rebuffed.
 
“That doesn’t mean they’re not pursuing some cyber strategy, and they may have just viewed it as their prerogative to not let us know what they’re doing.  But we have had conversations with the State Department, with the NSC, and have been told that, you know, they’re not pursuing that at this time,” says Barrett.
 
On the problem of Syrian cyber attacks, Eva Galperin says there is no need for the U.S. government to get involved, since American Internet companies are motivated to fight the problem.
 
"...the malware is being spread largely using platforms that are controlled by U.S. companies, such as Facebook or Skype, or by email such as Gmail.  We've really had the most luck in cooperating with U.S. companies," says Galperin.
 
And while the administration's strategy discussion continues, so does the fighting in Syria.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More