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Digital Attacks on Syrian Activists: Awareness Campaign

Week of activities to inform web users of threats they face and how to address them.

IWPR’s Cyber Arabs programme and its Syrian partners launch a six-day campaign on June 1 to raise awareness about the digital security attacks that are increasingly targeting activists in the country.

The Digital Security Awareness Week campaign is organised by Cyber Arabs, Salama Tech, the Revolution Office for Security Consulting, and Tech4Freedom. Together, we will publish articles that demonstrate the real risks and challenges posed by the ever-growing, increasingly virulent cyber-attacks targeting Syrian activists and netizens. The risks include detention or imprisonment, harassment, threats to relatives and colleagues, kidnapping and death.

The campaign aims to raise Syrian internet users’ awareness of the growing digital security challenges they face, and to introduce them to ways of addressing and mitigating cyber-security risks.

“Syrian activists and netizens are encountering targeted cyber-attacks launched by the regime and its proxy groups,” said Bahaa Nasr, Cyber Arabs Programme Manager. “Extremist groups have also been targeting activists for content they posted on websites and social media platforms.”

Cyber Arabs is an IWPR programme that provides journalists and civil society activists across the Arab world with up to date information on digital security risks, and training on how to deal with them. More than 100 Syrian activists have been trained in best practices for digital security and on the use of privacy programmes.

The cost in human lives since the start of the Syrian revolution in 2011,  has risen to at least 150,000. Several million people have been displaced and a peaceful uprising has morphed into a vicious armed conflict.

The March 2011 demonstrations were the catalyst for many individuals and groups to begin using the internet and social media to communicate with each other and to report – both to fellow Syrians and to the international community – on events taking place in their country and the impact on society.

Since the conflict began, pro- and anti-government hackers have targeted many websites, including those of news organisations. In particular, the Syrian Electronic Army, a pro-regime hacker group, has claimed responsibility for cyber-attacks on numerous sites. The government and its proxies are believed to target opposition activists with computer viruses containing malicious software designed to steal data.

The campaign will publish articles and tips on the campaign’s Facebook page and on Twitter (using the hashtag #AmennySyria) on key digital security issues, including how to protect accounts and sensitive information, create hack-proof passwords, encrypt emails and chats, and circumvent digital surveillance and mobile security.  

On the Facebook page, activists and other netizens will have a chance to put questions to digital security experts. 

For more information about the campaign, please visit Digital Security Awareness Week page.

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