A group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) claimed responsibility for the attack. Various accounts belonging to United Kingdom-based Guardian, including Guardian Stage, Guardian Film, Guardian Books and Guardian Music were taken over by Syrian activities on Sunday.
The Guardian said it first recognized it was being targeted when suspect emails were sent to staff members to trick them into giving away security details. Emails were sent to the newspaper’s staff over the weekend encouraging them to click on the links that could provide access to social media accounts.
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The latest attack against the Guardian is among the series of attacks against media companies by the SEA, a group supporting the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in the country’s ongoing civil war. The Syrian hackers have previously targeted the Associated Press, BBC, al-Jazeera, the Qatari government and National Public Radio in the United States. The SEA’s most successful hack to date involved tweeting from the AP news agency’s account that President Barack Obama had been injured in a bomb blast at the White House. This news briefly plummeted Dow Jones stock exchange, but recovered when the news was found as a hoax.
The SEA supports President Bashar Assad’s regime, which has been fighting rebels in Syria since March 2011. More than 70,000 people are thought to have been killed in the fighting so far. The attackers may be looking for amusement, launching a smear campaign to damage an individual or organization’s reputation, or carrying out a politically-motivated campaign.
The SEA is thought to be targeting any organization or individual with a large enough following on social media to cause widespread disruption, taking advantage of the rapid network effects that see messages retweeted rapidly before their accuracy has been checked.
Last month, several BBC Twitter accounts, including its weather, Arabic and Radio Ulster feeds, were hijacked. Earlier this month, the Twitter accounts for two CBS news programs in the US were suspended after being hacked by the SEA. Fake messages appearing on the @60Minutes account criticized US support for “terrorist” rebels in Syria and others accused Barack Obama of trying to “take away your guns”. The @CBSDenver account was also taken over. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22348334)
The latest Twitter incidents underscore a serious password security problem for users, even if they have the longest, most complicated password ever.