Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been under fire from world leaders to step down this week. He’s also under fire from hacktivist group Anonymous, who leaked hundreds of his office’s emails on Monday.
While Anonymous is infamous for its hacking know-how, it doesn’t take a genius computer programmer to guess one of the passwords commonly used by Assad’s office accounts: 12345. The string of consecutive numbers is the second-weakest password according to a 2011 study.
Anonymous broke into the mail server of the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affairs, accessing some 78 inboxes of Assad’s staffers, according a report from Israeli daily Haaretz. The password 12345 was associated with several of the accounts.
Mansour Fadlallah Azzam, the minister of presidential affairs and Bouthaina Shaaban, Assad’s media adviser, were among the victims of the inbox hacks.
Haaretz obtained and published one email that included documents intended to prepare the Syrian leader for his December 2011 interview with Barbara Walters. In the interview, Assad claimed the Syrian government was not killing its people.
“We don’t kill our people,” Assad told ABC “No government in the world kills its people, unless it’s led by a crazy person.”
In the leaked email, Syrian spokesperson at the U.N. Sheherazad Jaafari advised Shabaan and Luna Chebel, a former Al Jazeera reporter and current Assad staffer, on what the Syrian president should say to manipulate Americans:
“It is hugely important and worth mentioning that ‘mistakes’ have been done in the beginning of the crises because we did not have a well-organized ‘police force.’ American psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are ‘mistakes’ done and now we are ‘fixing it.’ It’s worth mentioning also what is happening now in Wall Street and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by policemen, police dogs and beatings.
“The major points and dimensions that have been mentioned a lot in the American media are: The idea of violence has been one of the major subjects brought up in every article. They use the phrases ‘The Syrian government is killing its own people,’ ‘Tanks have been used in many cities,’ ‘Airplanes have been used to suppress the peaceful demonstrations,’ and ‘Security forces are criminals and bloody.'”
Jaafari’s email also advised that Assad should emphasize the openness of Facebook and YouTube to show the true situation in Syria. Press entry restrictions should be spun as a proactive measure not to have foreign journalists misrepresent the country.