Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Twitter Feed of Thomson Reuters Is Latest Victim of Syrian Hackers

syrian_electronic_armyThe Twitter feed of Thomson Reuters, the global news and financial data company, appears to be the latest media victim of hijacking by the Syrian Electronic Army.

The Twitter account in question, @ThomsonReuters, has been suspended in the last several minutes. The attack appears to have taken place in the last hour. The attackers managed to tweet links to at least seven images, mostly pro-Assad political cartoons. BuzzFeed has captured all of them here, but they’re not exactly funny, so click cautiously.

The Syrian Electronic Army has been relatively quiet in recent weeks. However, it was very active earlier this year, carrying out attacks against the Twitter feeds of numerous media companies, including CBS and the Guardian in April, and the Financial Times in May. It also attacked The Onion, prompting a predictable but funny response from that satirical news site, and later, an equally awesome disclosure of technical details on how the attack was carried out.

It has been a few months since the SEA has carried out an attack of this nature. Twitter has been quietly working with media organizations to help them secure their accounts, and has developed something of a rapid-response protocol that allows companies hit with this kind of attack to quickly and temporarily put their accounts on ice until control is regained and, presumably, evidence is gathered to carry out an investigation.

The latest attack may indicate a new operational phase by the group, which supports the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s 28-month-old civil war. More than 100,000 people have died in the conflict since it began.

Here’s a screen grab of the tweets, which began at about 6:30 pm ET:


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik