Skype Becomes Operations Center for Syrian Rebels


Skype Becomes Digital Front of Syrian Rebellion

As for Skype, internet security experts say that pro-government hackers, notably the Syrian Electronic Army, can infiltrate computers and access a user's Skype data. And Skype can be an entry point for viruses, with hackers using the network to get users to click on links or content that lets malware in.

"You can't answer the question of whether Skype is safe without knowing whether the computers of both people involved in a Skype conversation are safe," said Scott-Railton. "Given the repeated attacks using Trojans by the Syrian Electronic Army, and their apparent success, it's hard to answer."

What's happening with Syrians online is shaping their attitudes offline, while connecting a community of Syrians at home and abroad. For progressive Syrians, technology has become the training ground for a new mindset in Syrian society.

"The information revolution has changed us radically," said Rami Nakhle, an early prominent voice of the revolution online. Nakhle is now working with the U.S. Institute of Peace on The Day After Project, a study of challenges facing post-conflict Syria.

Professor Joshua Landis, a Syria expert based at the University of Oklahoma, said the impact of social media has been more profound in Syria than it was in other countries in shaping a new mentality.

"I don't think you can underscore enough what a dramatic game changer social media has been," said Landis. "A whole generation of youth in Syria had been completely depoliticized before the Arab Spring. Assad had managed to turn Syria into a bunch of sheep."

Armed with connective technologies, they are sheep no more. Nakhle sees Syria's Facebook generation learning how to openly question a regime's account that had been presented as the one single truth all their lives.

"Our generation is accepting the truth that we've been brainwashed, that we have been victims all this time. The older generation, I don't think they're there yet," he said.

With so many perspectives now vying for position in the information war around Syria's war, there's no longer any one storyline to believe. Nakhle says it's like seeing the same world through different eyes.

"Our generation doesn't believe anyone but Google. Not our leaders, not our teachers," he said. "Because when you look for answers, Google gives you choices."

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