Attacks/Breaches
10/29/2013
09:30 AM
50%
50%

Syrian Hackers Attack Obama's Website

Pro-Syrian regime hackers gain ability to redirect Twitter and Facebook short links because staff failed to use Google two-factor authentication.

The Syrian Electronic Army: 9 Things We Know
(click image for larger view)
The Syrian Electronic Army: 9 Things We Know
The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) has struck again, this time targeting the BarackObama.com website and related social media accounts.

Rather than being able to directly hack the website, which was used by President Obama for his 2008 and 2012 election campaigns -- and which now supports his presidential agenda -- the Syrian hackers appear to have gained access to a control panel for the ShortSwitch link-shortening service used by the site.

The hackers, who back the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, altered all of the short links used by Obama's website and social media accounts, redirecting them to a "Syria Facing Terrorism" video on YouTube, which has since been removed. In other words, anyone who clicked on a link in Obama's Twitter feed, which counts 39 million followers, or Facebook page, which has been "liked" 37 million times, would have been redirected to pro-Assad propaganda.

[ Two-factor security can help, but it can pose problems also. Read Twitter Two-Factor Lockout: One User's Horror Story. ]

In keeping with the terrorism theme, the hackers tweeted from the @Official_SEA16 Twitter account Monday: "We accessed many Obama campaign emails accounts to assess his terrorism capabilities. They are quite high." They added: "Obama doesn't have any ethical issues with spying on the world, so we took it upon ourselves to return the favor."

The SEA apparently gained access to the ShortSwitch account tied to Obama's site by first hacking into multiple Gmail accounts used by Organizing for Action (OFA), a nonprofit that advocates for Obama's agenda and also maintains the BarackObama.com website. The Gmail hacking victims included the OFA's Suzanne Snurpus, who's the site administrator.

A self-proclaimed SEA spokesman confirmed Monday that the hackers obtained the ShortLink account credentials from OFA staff members' Gmail accounts. "As you might expect all the necessary information was in their emails," he told Mashable. "They didn't even enabled [sic] two-step verification." That's a reference to Google's two-factor authentication system, which would have blocked the attackers from hijacking the victims' Gmail accounts.

The OFA's Snurpus confirmed to Quartz that her Google account -- together with "lots" of her fellow volunteers -- had been compromised, but said they had regained control of their accounts. "We've all changed our passwords and added an extra layer of login security," she said.

OFA officials have said that the SEA never had direct access to Obama's Facebook page or Twitter feeds.

The SEA's hack of the Obama website and social media accounts recalls its takedown of satirical news site The Onion. In that case, the SEA sent emails containing links to purported news stories, but which really lead to a fake site that requested the viewer's Google Apps credentials to log in. Falling for the ruse, however, simply gifted related access credentials to the SEA, which ultimately seized control of The Onion's Twitter feed and posted hoax messages.

Security experts said that in both cases, the moral of the story is to always activate Google's two-factor authentication, which is free. "Two-factor authentication for email is an important security feature that should be enabled," according to a blog post from Symantec. "Two-factor authentication would have helped the staff members of OFA mitigate an attempt by hackers to obtain access to the Obama campaign's Google Apps email account." It added that "Google Apps administrators also have the option to 'enforce' two-factor authentication, making it mandatory for all users of that domain."

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
To Be Ready for the Security Future, Pay Attention to the Security Past
Liz Maida, Co-founder, CEO & CTO, Uplevel Security,  9/18/2017
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Jan, check this out! I found an unhackable PC.
Current Issue
Security Vulnerabilities: The Next Wave
Just when you thought it was safe, researchers have unveiled a new round of IT security flaws. Is your enterprise ready?
Flash Poll
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
Enterprises are spending more of their IT budgets on cybersecurity technology. How do your organization's security plans and strategies compare to what others are doing? Here's an in-depth look.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.