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16-04-2012 - Gulfnews by Sunil K. Vaidya, Bureau Chief

Hacked: Oman activists' Facebook, Twitter accounts

Omani activists vocal during protests in Oman last year and subsequently demanding release of protesters held in prison are now faced with the problem of online hacking.

Several activists in the county have had their Facebook and Twitter accounts hacked.

Several pages were opened on Facebook to talk about protests and later to demand release of those held under various charges. However, majority of these pages have disappeared, with moderators unable to access them.

"In the recent past I have had my Facebook account hacked at least four times," Habiba Al Hinai, a female activist, told Gulf News.

Habiba took part in the protests, such as the first Green march and the sit-in outside the Shura Council. "I really don't know what is it that every time I create a new account someone hacks it and I can't access it again," she said.

Habiba, who is also known for her exploits as a leading female volleyball player in Oman, wondered what hackers were looking for in her Facebook account. "I mostly write about my charity work," she said.

Now Habiba has opened a new account with the help of a friend. "I asked a friend outside Oman to open an account in my name and have used phone number from that country as a contact for account opening," she revealed, adding that she hoped she would not lose this account also.

Repeated online attacks

Esmail Al Muqbali, who was one of the leading intellectual protesters from Sohar, has also faced a similar problem. "I have had my Facebook as well as Twitter accounts hacked more than once," he told Gulf News.

Refraining from blaming anyone, he said that the hackers even tried a slander campaign against him by posting inappropriate messages.

Omani writer Saeed Al Hashmi, who led protests outside Shura Council last year, wondered why those who had protested are being targeted by the hackers. "My Facebook account has been hacked twice in last one week," he told Gulf News.

He said he would wait for two more weeks to retrieve his Facebook account or otherwise create a new one.

"I don't understand why would someone hack our accounts, we don't have any ‘valuable information' on Facebook," he pondered.

Al Hashmi, who had during last year's protests alleged that he was attacked by security personnel, said that his opinion and that of likeminded people was there for everyone to see in various publications.

"Except for some personal chat and totally innocuous subject discussions, there's nothing to gain for hackers," he added.

At the same time Al Hashmi wondered at the hacking of account of all those who had taken active part in the protests last year in Oman.

"Difficult to point a finger," he said.

 

Other sources on GCC civil society and human rights