Unknown hackers hijacked the official Facebook page of the Wall Street Journal on Sunday and posted bogus headlines.
One of the posts published by the hackers claimed that Air Force One, the aircraft carrying the president of the United States, had possibly crashed over Russian airspace. The announcement came just days after the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down as it transited eastern Ukraine, but many of the Internet users who saw the post on the WSJ’s Facebook page suspected that it was the work of hackers.
“BREAKING: US Air Force One crash feared as air traffic controller loses contact with pilot over Russian air space,” read the message posted by the hackers. A second post published only minutes later claimed Joe Biden, the vice president of the United States, was preparing to address the nation in 15 minutes.
“We are aware that our Facebook page was compromised during the last 20 minutes. We have deleted the posts and are looking into it,” the Wall Street Journal stated shortly after recovering the account.
This isn’t the first time the WSJ’s social media accounts are targeted by hackers. In May, members of the Syrian Electronic Army took over four of its Twitter accounts, but the attack wasn’t targeted directly at the company. Instead, the Syrian hacktivists used the hijacked feeds to insult the security expert Ira Winkler.
This time, the Syrian Electronic Army hasn’t taken credit for the attack on the WSJ’s Facebook account. SecurityWeek has reached out to the hackers, but has not recieved a response by press time. No other groups have claimed responsibility for the attack.
In some cases, hackers don’t hijack social media accounts directly. Instead, they compromise them through third-party services connected to the targeted account. For instance, in October 2013, when the Syrian Electronic Army posted several messages on President Barack Obama’s social media channels, they didn’t compromise the accounts themselves, but a URL shortening service used by the company that managed them.
Hacktivists are not the only ones targeting the systems of the WSJ. In January 2013, the organization said that its computers were hit by Chinese hackers for “the apparent purpose of monitoring the newspaper’s China coverage.” At the time, the Journal was just one of the many US media companies that accused China of conducting spying operations.