Crack des-pot

Hacking Assad… as easy as 1,2,3,4

Sophisticated cyber-burglars decide to ‘think like idiots,’ and quickly find Syrian president’s email password

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

A picture of Bashar Assad (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/ Flash90)
A picture of Bashar Assad (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/ Flash90)

In a development reminiscent of a scene from the movie Spaceballs, hackers who broke into Syrian President Bashar Assad’s email account earlier this year told Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat that the dictator’s password was 1234.

After a week of attempting to decipher what they thought would be an enigmatic code protecting Assad’s private correspondences, one of the sophisticated cyber-burglars tried “thinking like an idiot,” Al-Hayat reported Thursday.

“You’re doing it wrong,” said hacker Abdullah Shamri, recalling for the paper the moment at which epiphany struck one of his criminals-in-arms. “You always call the heads of the regime morons, so let’s try to work like morons.”

An enterprising hacker immediately tried a password widely acknowledged to be one of the most imbecilic possible: 1234. (Although most email service providers require a minimum of six characters, ruthless despots can evidently choose a password of whatever length they like.)

Within moments the hackers had at their fingertips a trove of private missives belonging to the dictator of Damascus.

The contents of over 3,000 emails were published by an opposition group in February, on the anniversary of the now-19-month-old civil war. They included emails detailing the shopping habits of Mrs. Assad, who spent thousands of dollars on designer candlesticks and chandeliers from Paris, as well as messages showing the extent of the president’s awareness of the violence playing out on the ground in his country.

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