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Attacks/Breaches

4/29/2013
01:24 PM
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Syrian Electronic Army Strikes Again, Hacks Guardian Twitter Accounts

Eleven Twitter accounts associated with the newspaper were hijacked

A hacktivist group sympathetic to the Syrian regime put a bullseye on 11 Twitter accounts tied to the Guardian newspaper.

The culprit appears to be the Syrian Electronic Army [SEA], a hacktivist group also tied to the recent hijacking of accounts belonging to the Associated Press. This time around, the hijacked accounts include Guardian Books, Guardian Film, and Guardian Travel. Some of the accounts have been recovered, but others remain suspended by Twitter.

"Questions have been asked as to how the Syrian Electronic Army has managed to hijack accounts belonging to [organizations] such as the BBC,NPR, CBS and FIFA with apparent ease," blogged Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "The suspicion is that the hackers have been targeting potential victims with phishing emails."

In fact, Guardian journalist James Ball tweeted as such, noting Sunday that he had received a phishing attack targeting Guardian journalists in his email inbox. Today, he tweeted: "the guys doing the Guardian phishing attack I mentioned yesterday (it's SEA) are really very good: sustained, changing, mails today."

In a message on the SEA website, the group said the attacks were in retaliation for "slander about Syria" and the suspension of Syrian Electronic Army accounts on Twitter. The tensions between the U.S. and Syria have mounted during the past two years as a civil war has raged in the country. An estimated 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

When the SEA targeted the Associated Press last week, it tweeted a message claiming that U.S. President Barack Obama was injured in explosions at the White House. The fake news alert is believed to have briefly caused a fluctuation in the stock market.

"Messaging services such as Twitter or Facebook are not direct news sources. They relay messages, so people should always be aware that the information may not be credible," says Les Hazlewood, CTO of Stormpath. "The good news is that it would be extraordinarily difficult to hack multiple news agencies at the same time with the exact same fake news, and people rely on multiple news sources to validate information.

"The recent Twitter account attacks remind us that passwords are on public trial. Both companies and regular people need to change how they do things. People need to start using complex passwords or a full sentence or phrase, which both keeps the password memorable and also complex enough to guard against attackers. But even that isn’t enough if people email them to co-workers or friends."

Cluley recommends organizations make sure their staff members are on the lookout for suspicious emails and are knowledgeable about password security best practices.

"Hopefully, The Guardian will cease control back of all its accounts soon - and will join the growing band of [organizations] hoping that Twitter introduces stronger security for corporate accounts," he blogged.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Brian Prince is a freelance writer for a number of IT security-focused publications. Prior to becoming a freelance reporter, he worked at eWEEK for five years covering not only security, but also a variety of other subjects in the tech industry. Before that, he worked as a ... View Full Bio

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