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Pro-Baath Propagandists Target Reuters on Two Fronts

On Friday, Reuters reported that its blogging platform was compromised and used to post false news stories. As it turned out, not only was the publishing platform targeted, but Reuters’ Twitter accounts were as well.

As SecurityWeek reported on Friday, one of the stories published via the hijacked blogging platform centered on an interview with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

The headline, “Riad Al-Asaad: Syrian Free Army pulls back tactically from Aleppo” was used to promote a story that said Al-Asaad had “tactically withdrawn from Aleppo province” after clashes with the regular Syrian army.

“Al-Asaad confirmed on a phone call to Reuters that the regular army killed 1000 soldiers of Free Syrian Army and arrest around 1500,” it continued.

“He added that Syrian regular army carried out several airdrops on Friday early morning.” A cached version of the article may be found here.  

The obvious pro-Syria (and pro-Baath) propaganda didn’t stop with fake news, on Twitter, Reuters’ @ReutersTECH was compromised and renamed to @ReutersME (Middle East) and used to post additional propagandized content.

Several of the false flag messages were re-tweeted by users of the microblogging platform before they could be removed, including a series of tweets that focus on President Obama funding Al-Qaida. (The U.S. has never done such a thing.)

A Dutch, Wereld Niueuws, managed to obtain screenshots of the compromise. Those can be seen here, here, and here.  

As for the source of the compromise, speculation was that it was a staffer’s own account that allowed the hackers a way in. However, other reports point to an outdated WordPress installation that contained known security vulnerabilities. 

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.