Qatar websites targeted by Syrian hackers

Gulf state’s main websites forced to shut down for a number of hours over weekend

Several Qatar-based websites were hacked into and shut down by an online group of cyber criminals supporting Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

A number of Qatar websites with the domain name .qa were taken offline for several hours, with the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) claiming responsibility.

Some of the websites targeted include government portals, the Ministry of Interior, the Supreme Education Council, facebook.qa, google.com.qa, and several Qatar based new sites.

“Qatar is #down” the SEA tweeted on Saturday.

SEA gained access to the domains by hacking into the registrar managed by Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communication (ictQatar).

“It was a temporary hitch and the hackers could not do any serious harm,” ictQatar said in a statement.

In the past, SEA has hacked FIFA’s Twitter account, Qatar Foundation’s social media accounts and the Al Jazeera news channel’s website.

The SEA has also disrupted the websites of US media and internet companies and this summer threatened to step up such hacking if Washington took military access against Damascus.

Thus far, the SEA's most disruptive act was in April when it broke into the Twitter account of the Associated Press and sent fictional tweets about explosions at the White House. The false messages sent the stock market into a downward spiral that, for a short time, erased more than $100 billion in value.

The SEA, which has its servers based in Russia, has also targeted the Huffington Post and New York Times websites this summer by gaining access to MelbourneIT, an Australian internet service provider that sells and manages domain names.

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