Three Syrian nationals and members of the Syrian Electronic Army were charged Tuesday with multiple conspiracies related to computer hacking, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Ahmad Umar Agha, 22, and Firas Dardar, 27, were charged with "a criminal conspiracy relating to engaging in a hoax regarding a terrorist attack, attempting to cause mutiny of the U.S. armed forces, illicit possession of authentication features, access device fraud, unauthorized access to, and damage of computers, and unlawful access to stored communications," according to criminal complaints.
Ahmad Umar Agha
Dardar and 36-year-old Peter Romar were separately charged with other conspiracies, including extortion and wire fraud, the statement said. All three are considered recent or former hackers of the Syrian Electronic Army -- believed to have been formed to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The court has issued arrest warrants for all three defendants.
The FBI added Agha and Dardar to its "Cyber's Most Wanted," list and offered a reward of up to $100,000 each for information leading to their arrests.
Agha and Dardar are believed to reside in Syria where they began their criminal activities, according to the Justice Department that did not provide information on Romar's whereabouts.
The "spear-phishing" method of the alleged hackers compromised the government's computer systems and other international organizations, which have been "antagonistic toward the Syrian government".
Spear-phishing is a method in which criminals obtain information by hacking into an organization's computer network and send deceptive emails to trick user by making them click a harmful link where they are asked to provide important information such as passport or account numbers, PIN codes or user IDs, according to FBI.
Media reports said the three targeted the computer systems of Microsoft, Harvard University and Human Rights Watch.
The Justice Department blames a member of the conspiracy with compromising the Twitter account of a prominent media organization in April 2013 and releasing a tweet claiming that a bomb had exploded at the White House and that the president had been injured.
Last year, the U.S. Army said it temporarily shut down its website after the Syrian Electronic Army hacked into the site.
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