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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.