The hack of a third-party hosting firm enabled the pro-regime hacktivists to temporarily knock out the websites of CNBC, Dell, Forbes, and the Chicago Tribune, among other high-profile entities.
Error messages on a number of affected sites read: "You've been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)". The SEA logo – of an eagle and a version of the Syrian flag - appeared on other sites.
“The group claimed to have used the domain Gigya.com, a company that offers businesses a customer identity management platform, to [reroute] other sites via [a compromise of] GoDaddy, its domain registrar,” according to CBC, another victim of the campaign. Gigya supports about 700 leading brands, according to the company’s website.
Gigya stressed that the attack was caused by a breach of the domain registrar which resulted in Gigya services being redirected to SEA sites.
"To be absolutely clear: neither Gigya's platform itself, nor any user, administrator or operational data has been compromised and was never at risk of being compromised," the company said.
Ernest Hilbert, cybercrime managing director at investigations firm Kroll, told CNBC the operation likely occurred on Thanksgiving because the hackers expected many people would be sitting at home browsing news websites on their laptops and mobile devices.