In the world of anti-surveillance, the New Year started on a high note with the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a hacker group that claims to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, hacking into Skype and warning the public from using email services of Microsoft.
The development came a day after WikiLeaks' Julian Assange called on hackers to unite against NSA surveillance. WikiLeaks founder Assange was addressing a major gathering of computer experts on Monday at the Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany. In his address, that was published on Democracy Now, he asked hackers to join the resistance against government intrusion.
An excerpt from his speech:
“And we can see that in the cases of the famous leaks that WikiLeaks has done or the recent Edward Snowden revelations, that it’s possible now for even a single system administrator to have a very significant change to the—or rather, apply a very significant constraint, a constructive constraint, to the behavior of these organizations, not merely wrecking or disabling them, not merely going out on strikes to change policy, but rather shifting information from an information apartheid system, which we’re developing, from those with extraordinary power and extraordinary information, into the knowledge commons, where it can be used to—not only as a disciplining force, but it can be used to construct and understand the new world that we’re entering into.”
Another recent development that points towards a link between the SEA and WikiLeaks is the recent visit of The WikiLeaks Party, the Australian political arm of WikiLeaks that met with Syrian President al-Assad. The WikiLeaks Party, for which Assange ran as a candidate at Australia’s September 2013 elections, on its webpage listed out the main purpose of the visit as:
1. To show solidarity with the Syrian people and their nation.
2. To deepen our understandings of the social processes in Syria - the conflict, the humanitarian situation, conflict resolution, the political reform process.
3. To have face to face meetings with a range of Syrians and to observe the country.
— Syrian Presidency (@Presidency_Sy) December 23, 2013
SEA, the amorphous hacker collective that owes its allegiance to al-Assad, made an indirect reference to the NSA spying program with its anti-surveillance messages, telling people not to use email services of Microsoft, the owner of Skype.
SEA claimed the US-based organisation is monitoring their users' accounts and selling the information to the governments. "Don't use Microsoft emails (hotmail, outlook). They are monitoring your accounts and selling the data to the governments," the hackers posted on Skype's Twitter account. (Read Full Story). The SEA also gave away the contact information of Microsoft Chief Executive Stevel Ballmer.
There is a lot that has happened since the WikiLeak expose and Edward Snowden revelations and it has only increased the unrest among the internet users for more freedom and transparency. If it is any sign of what is to come, 2014 is certainly going to be eventful, especially with forces such as SEA joining in to fight government control.