Over the last four years as the Syrian uprising has grown into a full-blown civil war, a sinister parallel conflict has been fought out in cyberspace, with combatants wielding bytes and software rather than guns as they have battled for supremacy on Syria’s internet frontline.
But the consequences of this secret cyber war have been real and deadly – particularly for opponents of the Assad regime who have been targeted for arrest and torture as a consequence of personal information gleaned from their email traffic.
In some cases even the military plans of crucial rebel offensives had been hacked. But the opposition has been busy too, leaking President Bashar al-Assad’s embarrassing personal correspondence and eavesdropping on government troop deployments amid much else.
As a consequence Syria’s civil war has become fertile ground for ‘hacktivists’ from both sides – egged on and in some cases assisted by governments and agencies from outside the region.
In this special investigation for People & Power , Juliana Ruhfus has been finding out why some experts believe Syria’s electronic armies have been drawing up the blueprints for all wars of the future, conflicts that transcend traditional physical boundaries but which can be just as significant as those fought with tanks and missiles.