But the biggest “twit-hit” was on April 25, when the official Twitter account of the Associated Press was hijacked and used to tweet a hoax that the White House had been hit by bombs and President Obama injured. The US stock market immediately plummeted 145 points, the fake news erasing an estimated $200 billion in market value – at least for a few minutes – before it rebounded.
What’s behind the Twitter hacks is a bald effort to win attention for Syria’s cause and to attack the nation’s perceived enemies in the media, several close observers say.
Some researchers who have been tracking the SEA for years say the group appears to have at least “tacit support” from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Others argue the group is operated out of Dubai by deep-pocketed supporters of the Syrian regime. Still others say the connection with the Assad regime is quite direct.
“The SEA definitely has a close relationship with the regime,” says Amjad Baiazy, an independent cyber-researcher in London who was held in detention by the regime in 2011. “I can’t say if they are also supported by certain individuals, but I can say they are funded by the regime. There are also strong indications that members of the group are trained by Iranian [information technology] experts.”