A group of computer hackers who are loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad say they’ve accessed hundreds of documents after allegedly penetrating the network of the United States Central Command and other systems.
The Syrian Electronic Army hacktivist group said from their Twitter account on Friday that they were engaged in an operation targeting CENTCOM due to US President Barack Obama’s “decision to attack Syria with electronic warfare.”
Soon after the group claimed to have “already successfully penetrated many central repositories,” and tweeted a screenshot of what is purported to show that hackers have indeed somehow wound up inside of a military computer system of some sorts.
The image suggests that someone from the SEA may have in fact gained access to a military directory called “AKO Home” that contains a number of folders with names relating to the US Air Force specifics command units under that branch.
— SyrianElectronicArmy (@Official_SEA16) March 14, 2014
“In the coming days we will update you with specific details and hundreds of documents that the #SEA has obtained,” the group tweeted.
“AKO,” or “Army Knowledge Online,” is the name of a web-based enterprise information system used by the Pentagon to let military personnel access files from any internet-connected computer, and was called “the world’s largest intranet” in a 2001 Wired article.
"It's a total aggregation of all the information the Army has, all the documents, manuals and files," Ryan Samuel, the director of public relations at a company that helped develop the AKO, told Wired’s Louise Knapp for that article.
At the time, Louise said the AKO had room for around 70 terabytes of storage for those files, though that number has almost certainly grown exponentially over the last 13 years.
The AKO website was slow to respond following the hackers’ claim, which could be the result of a surge in visitors prompted by the SEA’s tweets, an attempted denial-of-service attack to momentarily cripple the military’s servers or, also likely, a total coincidence.
Requests for comment made by RT to the Army’s press office were not immediately returned Friday afternoon.
The SEA has engaged in a number of operations in recent months against the websites of western media outlets, and is perhaps best known for claiming to have compromised the Twitter account of the Associated Press last year. Once that account was commandeered, the SEA erroneously reported that an explosion had occurred at the White House.
In January, the SEA gained unauthorized access to the social media accounts affiliated with Skype and posted messages critical of the Microsoft-owned product and the US government’s relationship with Silicon Valley. Last month, the group reportedly accessed the email accounts of Forbes employees and then took control of associated blogs.
The US has not publically admitted to waging any cyberattacks against the Syrian government, although the White House has been linked to waging a digital attack on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, and leaked National Security Agency documents have shown that the US intelligence community has an arsenal of offensive cyberweapons at its disposal.