Online activist groups Anonymous and RevoluSec said Monday that they had hacked into and defaced 12 Syrian government websites in support of anti-government protesters who are calling for the end of President Bashar Assad's authoritarian regime, The Associated Press reports.
It’s the second time in two months the Syrian government has been hacked. Last month, Anonymous said it was behind the hacking of the website of Syria's defense ministry, which is still offline, the AP reports.
The Syrian government has pushed back hard against civilians who want a change in leadership. The United Nations estimates that more than 2,700 Syrians have been killed since the government began cracking down on protesters in mid-March. The government regularly blocks and disables Internet access in Syrian cities where anti-government activity is increasing, according to the AP.
The hackers replaced the homepages with interactive maps of Syria showing data on the people killed in the government's crackdown since mid-March, Haaretz reports.
According to Haaretz:
The hacked versions of the webpages included a link to a site advising activists on how to maintain anonymity on the internet and prevent government tracking.
At the bottom of each page, the hackers provided “real” information about the city the site belongs to, with many of them including short videos documenting security forces’ crackdowns on protesters. The ‘Anonymous’ logo, a headless man in a suit, was on the foot of each page as well.
The Syrian government had restored some, but not all, of the most recently hacked sites by Monday.
Shortly after the online attack, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem addressed the UN General Assembly, which is holding its annual session in New York. He claimed the ongoing anti-government demonstrations were the work of foreign agitators, not citizens, Reuters reports.
"We deeply regret the surge in the activities of armed groups in Syria, which have not waned and instead continued to spiral," Moualem said. "The presence of these groups ... is the manifestation of foreign intervention.”