Attack on Syria expected to bring response in cyberspace, Baker Institute expert says


Jeff Falk

Attack on Syria expected to bring response in cyberspace, Baker Institute expert says

HOUSTON – (Aug. 28, 2013) – With talk of U.S. retaliation for employment of nerve agent chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus last week, a pronounced uptick in Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) activity and other disturbances in cyberspace can be expected, according to a cybersecurity expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.


Chris Bronk, the Baker Institute’s fellow in information technology policy, said there is a history to draw upon regarding this argument. “In the wake of the alleged Stuxnet cyberattack against Iran’s nuclear enrichment program and the discovery of the Flame cyberespionage malware on computer systems across the Middle East, regimes in the region, including Syria and Iran, appear to be mobilizing intellectual assets to develop offensive cyber capabilities to disrupt the information systems of their adversaries,” he said.

Bronk said that for more than a year, parties within the Middle East, presumably tied to Iran, have employed the distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, tactic, which floods a website with bogus data requests until it freezes up and fails. “Particularly worrisome have been DDoS attacks against some of the largest U.S. banks, whose customer-facing portals have grown to assume pivotal importance to the business of consumer banking,” he said. A DDoS attack Tuesday on the New York Times website that prevented some of the paper’s readership from accessing the news was attributed to the SEA.

“With the United States and its allies considering military action against Syria, the Internet security community will likely need to stock up on coffee and prepare for new hacks of their networks,” Bronk said.

Bronk holds additional appointments in the Baker Institute Center for Energy Studies, Rice University’s Department of Computer Science and the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

The Baker Institute has a radio and television studio available for media who want to schedule an interview with Bronk. For more information, contact Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at or 713-348-6775.


Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.

Related materials:

Bronk biography:

Founded in 1993, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston ranks among the top 20 university-affiliated think tanks globally and top 30 think tanks in the United States. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows and Rice University scholars. Learn more about the institute at or on the institute’s blog,

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.