The Syrian Electronic Army, a pro-Assad group that's hacked a slew of online services in its (successful) attempts to draw attention to its cause, claimed on Monday to have hacked into President Obama's campaign email accounts. It didn't.
What the SEA appears to have done is access email accounts linked to Organizing For Action, the non-profit offshoot of Obama For America, Obama's 2012 campaign operation. SEA notes the distinction in its tweet announcing the hack, visible at right. In another tweet, it claimed to have hacked the president's social media accounts.
According to the Huffington Post's Sam Stein, a representative for Organizing For Action confirmed the breach — but only of email accounts and the organization's link-shortening tool. So, while tweets from @barackobama redirected to a pro-Syrian regime video — "Thank you Obama for redirecting people to the #SEA website," said the SEA — it was only the link that had been compromised. Our partners at Quartz confirmed that staff emails had been accessed over the weekend, and that the problem had since been addressed. Once the email accounts were accessible, though, the hackers were able to access the BarackObama.com back-end and ShortSwitch, the link-shortener.
Some outlets reported that Obama's social media accounts had been taken over by the SEA. As we reported earlier this year, the @barackobama twitter feed and BarackObama.com domain are still owned by the president's still-extant 2012 campaign committee, but are leased to and under the control of Organizing For Action. While we noted at the time that the use of the president's name was confusing — a confusion that is intentional, as it facilitates the group's fundraising — there is no connection between the group and the White House beyond shared allegiances and relationships.
This isn't the first time that the SEA has made outsized claims of its hacks. In August, the group claimed to have hacked The Washington Post and Reuters. It had actually hacked a link-sharing system called Outbrain.
Its rhetoric for its attacks remains largely the same, albeit with an up-to-the-minute hook.
Obama doesn't have any ethical issues with spying on the world, so we took it upon ourselves to return the favor. #SEA— SyrianElectronicArmy (@Official_SEA16) October 28, 2013