Attacks/Breaches
7/5/2011
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Fox News Twitter Account Hacked, Claims Obama Killed

Weak or reused passwords likely exploited by group with Anonymous hacking collective sympathies.

On Monday, a group calling itself the Script Kiddies hacked into the Fox News Politics Twitter account and posted a bogus messages saying that President Obama had been assassinated.

"BREAKING NEWS: President @BarackObama assassinated, 2 gunshot wounds have proved too much. It's a sad 4th for #america. #obamadead RIP," read one of the messages. Another wished Joe Biden "the best of luck as our new President." The attackers also changed the Fox News Politics logo to read: "H4CK3D BY TH3 5CR1PT K1DD3S."

All told, multiple bogus messages, posted beginning in the early hours of Independence Day, remained online for at least six hours before Fox News staff apparently regained control of the Twitter account and excised the fake tweets. While Fox News didn't publish a retraction via Twitter, it published its own story on Monday, saying that its Twitter feed had been hacked and that "FoxNews.com regrets any distress the false tweets may have created."

"We will be requesting a detailed investigation from Twitter about how this occurred, and measures to prevent future unauthorized access into FoxNews.com accounts," said Jeff Misenti, VP and general manager of Fox News Digital, according to the story. The U.S. Secret Service confirmed that it is also investigating the hack.

What would Twitter's investigation into the attacks find? "My guess is that whoever administers the Fox Twitter account is either using an easy-to-guess password, or is using the same password elsewhere on the Internet," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, in an interview. "For instance, they might be using the same password for Twitter as they do their email account. Or they might have used the same password on a message board."

In other words, businesses that want to prevent these types of attacks from occurring need to practice proper password hygiene. "Clearly, staff need to be tutored on safe password usage--which not only includes choosing complex, hard-to-guess passwords, but also ensuring that you are not using the same password elsewhere on the net," said Cluley. "Furthermore, it would be a sensible company policy not to share the password too widely inside the organization."

This isn't the first time that hackers have taken an interest in Fox News. Notably, the LulzSec hacking group gained access to a server containing hundreds of usernames and passwords for Fox News, then publicly released the information. LulzSec also posted bogus messages via Fox affiliates' Twitter feeds, presumably because the affiliates reused their Fox News website passwords for Twitter.

While LulzSec is now defunct, prior to the group's demise it announced a collaboration with the Anonymous hacking collective, which is perhaps best known for its defense of WikiLeaks. This new, joint effort, dubbed #AntiSec, also aims to obtain and publish sensitive business and government data.

The AntiSec mantle appears to have been picked up by the Script Kiddies. Indeed, after the bogus Fox News Twitter posts went live, Stony Brook University's Think Magazine said that it interviewed a representative of the group, who said that it was pursuing AntiSec activities, and that multiple members of the group had previously participated in Anonymous activities. "I was a member of Anonymous. We hope to be working with them soon," said the representative.

Black Hat USA 2011 presents a unique opportunity for members of the security industry to gather and discuss the latest in cutting-edge research. It happens July 30-Aug. 4 in Las Vegas. Find out more and register.

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