Security Experts:

More Charges Against 'Syrian Electronic Army' Hackers

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday announced more charges against two Syrian nationals believed to be members of the “Syrian Electronic Army” hacker group.

Ahmad ‘Umar Agha, 24, known online as “The Pro,” and Firas Dardar, 29, known online as “The Shadow,” have been indicted on 11 counts of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

The charges stem from spear-phishing attacks allegedly launched by the men against a wide range or government and private organizations, including the Executive Office of the President, the Marine Corps, NASA, Human Rights Watch, and a long list of media companies, such as CNN, Reuters, National Public Radio, The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Onion, Time, USA Today, and The New York Post.

The goal of the phishing attacks was to help the hackers obtain usernames and passwords, which they could use to deface websites, redirect the visitors of the targeted site to their own domains, steal emails, and hijack social media accounts.

Authorities pointed out that the computer fraud and wire fraud conspiracy charges carry maximum prison terms of 5 and 20 years in prison, respectively, and the aggravated identity theft charges carry up to 18 years in prison.

The men were previously charged in 2014 – the criminal complaints were only unsealed in 2016 – alongside Peter “Pierre” Romar, who had been residing in Germany. Romar was arrested and pleaded guilty to hacking and extortion charges in September 2016.

Ahmad ‘Umar Agha and Firas Dardar are still at large and are believed to be residing in Syria. They are on the FBI’s Cyber Most Wanted list, with a reward of up to $100,000 being offered for information leading to their arrest.

The new indictment comes as the five-year statute of limitations for some of the crimes they were previously charged for is about to expire.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.