Syrians demonstrate against the regime after Friday prayers in the north Syrian city of Idlib on February 17. Activists working against the regime now have to worry about malware that can expose their activities.

Story highlights

U.S. antivirus experts say a virus is sending information to a server in Syria

Activists: Regime supporters are stealing oppositionists' online identities'

Imposters use stolen identities to pass the viruses to activists, opposition claims

Antivirus software may not yet optimally protect against the new viruses

CNN  — 

In Syria’s cyberwar, the regime’s supporters have deployed a new weapon against opposition activists – computer viruses that spy on them, according to an IT specialist from a Syrian opposition group and a former international aid worker whose computer was infected.

A U.S.-based antivirus software maker, which analyzed one of the viruses at CNN’s request, said that it was recently written for a specific cyberespionage campaign and that it passes information it robs from computers to a server at a government-owned telecommunications company in Syria.

Supporters of dictator Bashar al-Assad first steal the identities of opposition activists, then impersonate them in online chats, said software engineer Dlshad Othman. They gain the trust of other users, pass out Trojan horse viruses and encourage people to open them.

Once on the victim’s computer, the malware sends information out to third parties.

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Othman is an IT security “go-to-guy” for opposition activists. He resides outside of Syria for his own safety.