On Saturday, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) launched another attack on Twitter, targeting E! Online. The attack comes just one week after Twitter issued a memo to media outlets warning them to protect their account.
Saturday’s attack against E! Online centered on pop-culture and propaganda. The SEA claimed responsibility for messages posted to the compromised account that reported Angelina Jolie blaming Jordan for the conditions of suffering Syrian refugees; and two mock tweets from Justin Bieber and his on-again off-again girlfriend Selena Gomez – his saying that he was gay, and hers pledging support for his coming out.
Last month, the SEA targeted the AFP and three CBS News accounts, in order to spread propaganda supporting Syria’s President Assad. Using the hijacked accounts maintained by staffers for 60 Minutes, 48 Hours and CBS Denver, the group posted comments that President Obama was “shamelessly in bed with Al-Qaeda” and that the CIA was arming Al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria.
From there, they compromised the Twitter account maintained by the Associated Press, and used it to report explosions at the White House, and injury to President Obama. The fake news tweet caused problems on Wall Street, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average took a 130-point dip and the S&P dropped 12 points. The market recovered on the same day. The SEA also targeted 11 feeds used by Britain’s Guardian newspaper, in addition to accounts that were maintained by several of the paper’s journalists.
Shortly before Saturday’s attacks, Twitter said that they “believe that these attacks will continue, and that news and media organizations will continue to be high value targets to hackers.”
“These incidents appear to be spear phishing attacks that target your corporate email,” the warning reads, which goes on to encourage awareness training, password changes, and the need for email security. In a statement, E! Online said that their Twitter and SMS accounts were compromised, adding an apology “for any confusion that the erroneous news alerts may have caused.”
Control of the account was restored in under two hours, at 2:39 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday.
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