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The Syrian Electronic Army celebrates Thanksgiving with widespread ad hack

If you’ve ventured online today then you might have found images from the Syrian Electronic Army appearing where advertising should be. The activist group, which supports the Assad regime in Syria, has claimed responsibility for an advertising network hack that has been timed to coincide with Thanksgiving.

It’s not a hugely significant security breach, as no user data has been exposed, but many websites across the Internet have been affected. Sites run by Forbes, The Chicago Tribune, CNBC, PC World, the NHL and Canadian broadcaster CBC are said to have been affected. It’s believed that the SEA’s route of attack was through the popular commenting platform Gigya.

The Syrian Electronic Army has used Web attacks to promote its cause in the past. At the start of the year the group hacked into several high-profile Twitter and Facebook accounts and it was through Twitter that the organization claimed responsibility for today’s interference. Visitors to affected sites were met with pop-ups promoting the SEA, though it’s not fully clear just how widespread the exploit ultimately was.

Gigya said that the issue has now been fixed and that no user data was compromised. For its part the SEA claimed to be the “good guys” in today’s proceedings, perhaps a hint that its Thanksgiving hacking activities were more of an attention-seeking exercise than a malicious attempt to cause damage. If your holiday Web browsing has been rudely interrupted, now you know why.