According to Abdullah Hachim Shammari, leader of the team that hacked into President Bashar al-Assad’s e-mail address, “there were about 7,500 e-mails that blow the lid off the president’s secrets and scandals, in addition to some interesting messages from his inner circle.”
Shammari, 45, studied medicine in Bulgaria and worked at a private company in Saudi Arabia. He and his team established the Internet's first Arab information network, which he runs.
Shammari explained to Al-Hayat the idea of hacking. He said that he has written articles on the Syrian situation and sent them via e-mail to his list of contacts. “I also set up a blog to document the process. I sent the articles to the Office of the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Syrian officials. I received a call from a presidential office official, who told me: ‘We used to hold a grudge against you. However, we found out that although your words are cruel, they speak the truth. I cannot deliver your articles to the president. I will give you his private and confidential e-mail and you send him your articles in your own way.’"
Shammari added, “He gave me the president’s e-mail on March 28, 2010. So, I sent him some of the articles bearing my signature, calling for reform before it was too late.”
“Following the protests in Rif Dimashq [Damascus countryside], I suggested to my friends that we come up with a way to support the protests. We decided to hack Bashar’s e-mail by searching for his password.”
“On March 18, 2011, we got the necessary hardware and software to decode the password. We set up a database for the code-cracking programs, which ran many numbers and letters in an attempt to decode the password. However, we did not succeed.”
“In that time, I wrote an article entitled ‘Stupid Regimes or Divine Justice.’ One of my friends told me: ‘You are working in the wrong way. Let us play the fool. It has been a week and we have not yet cracked the password, and here you come and describe them as fools.’ “
“We took his suggestion into consideration and played dumb. And on April 16, 2011, I was surprised when I heard my friend saying, ‘Congratulations, we cracked the president’s password,’ which was ‘1234.’”
Shammari continued: “We were in Damascus, so we feared that the regime would crack down on us or execute us. We stopped the hacking process until we figure out a safe way to continue the process. We subscribed to an [electronic] protection service provided by a foreign company in a large country. We were also provided with camouflage techniques and were able to access the president’s e-mail from Los Angeles.”
Shammari noted that “the president used to delete the messages right after he read them. We could not open unread message so as not to reveal ourselves. Therefore, we decided to travel abroad so that we can hack the server. I left for Lebanon in May 2011. Afterwards, I decided to move to a country that has no relations with Syria so that it would not hand us over to the regime. I arrived in Mexico on May 9, 2011.”
He added that “In Mexico, we hacked into the entire server from May 16 to May 18, 2011. We managed to hack into the e-mail account of the president’s wife, who did not delete her read messages. We found priceless information. We used to read Bashar’s messages while he was sleeping due to the time difference between Syria and Mexico.”
“We were able to warn some Syria figures, as we found out that the president was briefed about any operation that would be carried out against a prominent figure or a close acquaintance of one. We also informed the friends of the Free Syrian Army that some of their ranks were infiltrated.”
Shammari confirmed that he obtained “information on the intelligence services and their works behind the scenes," saying, "I have information on the undeclared positions of certain states, secret meetings with Arab and international figures and the messages of the regime’s moles to Bashar, advising him on what to do.”
“There is also a message from a media consultant who requested that the president establish an office for her in the palace. There are also messages on large financial transfers abroad, and plans for arrest operations and repression.”
Shammari said that he was subjected to an assassination attempt in Mexico when the hacking story was made public. He confirmed that he has "nothing to do with the e-mails that came out," saying, "Roughly 1,000 e-mails were leaked. The Guardian newspaper reported having 3,000 e-mails. However, I have 7,500 e-mails that blow the lid off many secrets and scandals, which I will be documenting for history records.”