This is a developing story and will be updated when new information is available.
A group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for hacking the Associated Press’ Twitter account Tuesday afternoon and posting the false claim that President Obama had been injured by explosions in the White House. The announcement was shared by thousands of the AP’s followers before the account went offline, and caused the stock market to suddenly plummet more than 150 points.
â€” SyrianElectronicArmy (@Official_SEA6) April 23, 2013
But who is the Syrian Electronic Army? What do we know about them?
While this account is a new one – its first tweet was sent Sunday – this is the sixth Twitter account of the Syrian Electronic Army. The previous ones have all been banned by Twitter, which takes a strict stance against hackers on Twitter. At the time of writing, @Official_SEA6 is still active while the @AP and @AP_Mobile accounts remain suspended.
The account is linked to syrianelectonicarmy.com, a Syrian language website that says it supports Arab people with campaigns against Western media. The group appears to strongly support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The plan to make a false alarm about the White House and an injured President Obama appears to be a pre-meditated plan. The Syrian Electronic Army included the hashtag #ByeByeObama when it announced the attack.
On Sunday, this same Twitter account claimed responsibility for hacking CBS’s Twitter account, and making accusations that President Obama was trying to “take away your guns,” as well as some anti-Semitic posts. In March, the group was also responsible for the takeover of several BBC accounts and hacking the social media accounts for the Qatar Foundation. The hackers have also been linked to attacks on Agence France-Presse and Al-Jazeera.
The hack comes during escalated conflict in the Syrian civil war, where it was confirmed that Syria has been using chemical weapons.
The AP suspended its account soon after it was compromised, mitigating much of the damage. Syrian Electronic Army's attack on CBS, which hijacked the official account for "60 Minutes," lasted for much longer, allowig the group to send several more tweets. Similar attacks against Jeep and Burger King also lasted much longer.
The latest tweet from the group shares what was supposedly the AP's Twitter username and password:
However, this information has net been confirmed by an outside source.
A tweet from the AP's Mike Baker indicates that the origin of the attack came from a phishing attack, which used disguided links in emails to direct AP computers to malicious websites. Yesterday, IBTimes reported on another phishing scam that was tweeting malicious links, disguised with a link shortener, to access information on financial accounts.
The @ap hack came less than an hour after some of us received an impressively disguised phishing email.
â€” Mike Baker (@MikeBakerAP) April 23, 2013
The AP's head of media relations, Paul Colford, made an official statement on the attack.
"Out of a sense of caution, we have suspended other AP Twitter feeds," he said in the statement. "We are working with Twitter to sort this out.”
AP's Twitter account returned on Wednesday, though it had lost a significant amount of its followers. Before the hack, the account had over 2 million followers, but lost almost all of them. They have steadily been returning all day, and currently is back up to baout 1.2 million.
The recent bad press has encouraged Twitter to take action towards designing better password protection.
â€” The Associated Press (@AP) April 24, 2013