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Fake YouTube Attacks Syrian Protesters

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Last month, we reported on hacker collective Anonymous’ attacks on both Syrian president and apparent Apple (AAPL) fan Bashar al-Assad and tear gas manufacturer Combined Systems Inc. Protesters in the Middle East had previously told of finding tear gas canisters labeled with the company’s name and address.

Well, it looks like Syria has a few hackers on its side.

A fake version of YouTube (GOOG) has been targeting Syrian activists. According to the Atlantic, the convincing looking clone sites, at least one of which has been taken down, open up visitors to cyber attack.

After being linked to the fake site, users were asked to input their YouTube credentials -- which were then stolen -- and to download Flash (ADBE) updates (read malware). The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EEF) warns anyone linked to one of these sites to do neither of these things.

It is unclear at the moment who created the fake YouTube sites however, they seem to have taken a special interest in Syrian protesters. One suspect is the Syria Electronic Army, which has been commended in the past by Assad for its work against dissent.

It’s been pointed out that YouTube stands as one of the few vehicles that allow protesters to communicate with the outside world. As such, reducing or eliminating citizen access to the site would be an especially big win for Assad and supporters of his regime.

Along with the likes of Twitter and Facebook, YouTube has played a valuable role in the Arab Spring by opening up communication between dissenters and the rest of the world. Of course, as social media has grown more powerful, so have governments’ attempts to censor it. Earlier this week, Bahrain (who just shut down their embassy in Syria) was added to Reporters Without Borders “Enemies of the Internet” list for its attempts to crack down on Internet freedom in hopes of suppressing their now year-long rebellion.

In Syria’s case, even with a few hackers, it looks like the Internet is a staunch enemy of the regime. The full effect of the Guardian’s release of Assad and company’s emails is yet to be seen but protesters have so far told reporters that they are “sickened but not shocked” by Assad’s shopping lists and jokes about reform.
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