The official Twitter account of the Reuters news agency became a conduit for pro-Assad propaganda on Monday after the account was taken over by hacktivists from the infamous Syrian Electronic Army.
Updates supportive of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad spewed from @thomsonreuters before normality was restored and the news agency regained control of the hacked account, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The compromised account was used to put out a series of propaganda messages and cartoons (captured in screenshots in a story by the Atlantic Wire here) in support of President Assad's government.
Since March 2011, Syria has been embroiled in civil war. Uprisings against the Assad government have resulted in numerous clashes between rebels and the regime's forces, which are supported by Hezbollah.
According to some security and human rights researchers, including InfoWar Monitor, the SEA has also been tasked with hacking and otherwise disrupting opposition websites within Syria itself.
Syrian citizens' access to the internet has been cut off twice in the past two years: once in the second month of the civil war, and most recently as rebel forces fought their way into the capital city of Damascus at the end of last year.
Reuters is the latest in a long line of media organisations perceived to be pro-rebel or against the Assad regime to be pwned by the SEA. Previous victims include The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Al Jazeera and The Onion. An attack on the Associated Press in April was used to falsely claim the White House had been bombed and President Barack Obama injured, leading to a temporary dip in stock exchanges.
The group's main stock-in-trade involves multi-stage phishing attacks ultimately aimed at taking over email accounts associated with social media profiles of targeted organisations.
Separately, unconfirmed reports suggest the SEA managed to take over three personal email accounts of White House employees. These compromised accounts were used to send secondary phishing emails, disguised as BBC or CNN articles, to other workers. Prospective marks who clicked on these links were directed towards fake Gmail or Twitter login screens in a ruse aimed at harvesting login credentials.
The hacktivists told E Hacking News that although their ultimate aim to compromise the White House website had failed, they have managed to compromise Twitter account passwords and Hootsuite accounts.
Twitter has suspended the group's official account — @Official_SEA12 — following the SEA's latest run of attacks on websites associated with VoIP apps Viber and Tango earlier this month. ®