Why Syrian Hackers Targeted a Skype Rival

Photographer: Albert Gea/Corbis

Viber's Founder and CEO Marco Talmon speaks during a news conference at the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Close

Viber's Founder and CEO Marco Talmon speaks during a news conference at the 2013 Mobile... Read More

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Photographer: Albert Gea/Corbis

Viber's Founder and CEO Marco Talmon speaks during a news conference at the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

The Syrian Electronic Army, the hacker group responsible for defacing several online news sites, has struck again. Visitors to a section of Viber Media's website, which provides a Skype-like Internet calling app used by 200 million people, found a scary-looking message posted there this week.

"The Israeli-based 'Viber' is spying and tracking you," the Syrian group wrote on the site. "We weren't able to hack all Viber systems, but most of it is designed for spying and tracking."

In a statement, Viber said: "It is very important to emphasize that no sensitive user data was exposed and that Viber's databases were not 'hacked.' Sensitive, private user information is kept in a secure system that cannot be accessed through this type of attack."

The Viber app, which lets you make calls and send text messages for free, was developed in Belarus and has become particularly popular in Central and Eastern Europe, Bloomberg Businessweek reported last year. While it also has operations in Cyprus, Viber runs the business from Israel. The app first launched there in 2010 after founders Talmon Marco and Igor Magazinik became friends during their time serving in the Israeli army.

That apparently made the company a particularly attractive target for the Syrian hackers. The two countries remain engaged in an ongoing conflict that spans air, ground and cyberspace. Earlier this month, Bloomberg Global Tech's Gwen Ackerman reported on concerns that Israel's private sector is vulnerable to digital attacks.

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