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
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2015-0750
Published: 2015-05-22
The administrative web interface in Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) 10.6(1) and earlier allows remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary commands via crafted input to unspecified fields, aka Bug ID CSCut02786.

CVE-2012-1978
Published: 2015-05-21
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in Simple PHP Agenda 2.2.8 and earlier allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that (1) add an administrator via a request to auth/process.php, (2) delete an administrator via a request to auth/admi...

CVE-2015-0741
Published: 2015-05-21
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in Cisco Prime Central for Hosted Collaboration Solution (PC4HCS) 10.6(1) and earlier allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of arbitrary users, aka Bug ID CSCut04596.

CVE-2015-0742
Published: 2015-05-21
The Protocol Independent Multicast (PIM) application in Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) Software 9.2(0.0), 9.2(0.104), 9.2(3.1), 9.2(3.4), 9.3(1.105), 9.3(2.100), 9.4(0.115), 100.13(0.21), 100.13(20.3), 100.13(21.9), and 100.14(1.1) does not properly implement multicast-forwarding registrati...

CVE-2015-0746
Published: 2015-05-21
The REST API in Cisco Access Control Server (ACS) 5.5(0.46.2) allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (API outage) by sending many requests, aka Bug ID CSCut62022.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join security and risk expert John Pironti and Dark Reading Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson for a live online discussion of the sea-changing shift in security strategy and the many ways it is affecting IT and business.