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Syrian Electronic Army alleges stealing 'millions' of phone numbers from chat app Tango

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WIKIPEDIA Syrian flag
WIKIPEDIA Syrian flag

After hacking a number of high-profile Twitter accounts this spring, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) is now claiming to have stolen millions of email addresses and phone numbers from users of the messaging service Tango. In a move that could spell trouble for Syrian rebels, the SEA has announced that it will be handing the information over to its country's government. The hack was acknowledged by Tango on Saturday, however it only noted that "some data" had been accessed.

"Everyone gets that you can't use the telephone."

Collin Anderson, a researcher on Iran and internet censorship, told The Verge that Tango may have been targeted due to its high profile in the region. "Everyone gets that you can't use the telephone," Anderson said. Because online messaging services often provide more robust security, Anderson notes that many people living under authoritarian regimes will "desperately seek out chat and video conferencing applications." Due to bans on Skype and Viber throughout Iran, Tango has recently been subject to more attention and broader adoption.

Anderson doesn't believe that anyone will be targeted specifically for having communicated through Tango, but he suggests that the stolen information could be used to unmask anonymous internet users that the Syrian government has been keeping an eye on. That's a potentially serious result from an SEA hack — and a surprising turn for an organization that spent time focusing on basic, often trollish attacks on Twitter accounts. Tango is yet to verify the extent of the data breach, but if it's as serious as the SEA claims, Anderson believes that there's reason to worry: “People are probably going to get hurt because of this.”