Hackers post false updates about Syria on Reuters Twitter account

August 6th, 2012 - 9:32 pm ICT by BNO News  

LONDON, ENGLAND (BNO NEWS) — A Twitter account belonging to the Reuters news agency was hacked Sunday and used to post false updates regarding the civil war in Syria. It comes just days after someone also hacked a Reuters blogging platform to post a fake interview with a Syrian rebel leader.

The @ReutersTech account, which is used by Reuters to post Technology-related news updates to its more than 17,000 followers, was hacked on early Sunday and changed to @ReutersME. The name change was likely done to give its followers the impression that the account was used by the news agency to post updates from the Middle East.

A total of 22 fake updates were posted until Twitter suspended the account. The majority of the tweets were relating to the civil war in Syria and gave the impression rebels were losing the fight against government forces. Other tweets were about terrorist group al-Qaeda and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“FSA source confirms heavy losses within their ranks due to the superiority & sheer force of Syrian army,” one of the updates said, referring to the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Another update claimed the FSA had lost 2,200 of its fighters in the northern province of Aleppo and demanded extra support from the “free world.”

One update claimed U.S. President Barack Obama had signed an executive order to ban any further investigation into the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Other updates claimed the U.S. confirmed funding al-Qaeda since the 1980s and that Obama had taken al-Qaeda off the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

On its website, a Reuters spokesperson said it was not immediately known who was behind the hacking. “Earlier today @ReutersTech was hacked and changed to @ReutersME. The account has been suspended and is currently under investigation,” the spokesperson said. The @ReutersTech account was restored on early Monday, but the fake updates were still visible.

Sunday’s incident comes just days after hackers posted a false story purporting to be an interview with Riad al-Asaad, the head of the Free Syrian Army. In the purported interview, the FSA leader said his forces were pulling back from Aleppo after clashes with government forces.

The FSA blamed the Syrian regime for the incident, but Reuters said it did not know who was behind Friday’s hacking. “Reuters.com was a target of a hack on Friday. Our blogging platform was compromised and fabricated blog posts were falsely attributed to several Reuters journalists. We are working to address the problem,” Reuters said in a brief statement on Friday.

On Sunday, addressing Friday’s hacking, WordPress lead developer Mark Jaquith told The Wall Street Journal that Reuters had been using an old version of the content management system. “If organizations ignore those notifications (to update) and stay on an outdated version, then they put themselves at risk of these sorts of breaches,” Jaquith said.

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