Celebrity news service E! Online became the latest high-profile media Twitter account to fall victim to hackers, with a series of false Tweets that began with a claim that Justin Bieber was gay.
The Tweet, which said, “Breaking! Exclusive: Justin Bieber to E! Online ‘I’m a gay’”, was retweeted 1,200 times. The breach lasted around an hour, according to reports in the Daily Mail and elsewhere, with further Tweets including, “E! News Breaking: Justin Bieber arrested in Dubai,” and other bogus news relating to Angelina Jolie.
The hackers also gained control of SMS news accounts for the celebrity news service, and began sending out bogus “news” and obscene messages to subscribers. The Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for the hack, which took place on Saturday.
The group has claimed responsibility for several high-profile attacks against media groups, including an attack on the main Associated Press Twitter account where hackers sent out bogus “news” about an attack on President Obama. The AP Tweet caused panic on stock markets, wiping 143 points off the Dow Jones. The group has also claimed responsibility for recent hacks against Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, and news organisations such as NPR, CBS and the BBC.
“Eonline’s breaking news twitter and sms accounts were compromised today. We’re working to have this resolved as quickly as possible and are fully investigating the incident,” the company said in a statement. “We apologize for any confusion that the erroneous news alerts may have caused.” The company has not explained how hackers were able to access the accounts.
In the wake of attacks last week, Twitter send out an email to media groups saying, “We believe that these attacks will continue, and that news and media organizations will continue to be high value targets to hackers.”
Twitter has provided media companies with guidelines on how to resist such hacks, including steps such as designating specific PCs to access company Twitter accounts.
Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security