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FT Web Accounts Hacked to Post Syrian War Atrocity Videos

The headquarters of the Financial Times newspaper in London, on Feb. 13, 2013. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
The headquarters of the Financial Times newspaper in London, on Feb. 13, 2013. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

May 17 (Bloomberg) -- The Financial Times’s blog and some of its social media accounts were hacked today, with messages appearing on the sites relating to the conflict in Syria.

The FT Trading Room account on Twitter Inc. posted two messages. One said “Syrian Electronic Army Was Here,” and the other “Do you want to know the reality of the Syrian ‘Rebels’? Just watch this video.” The link showed a man cutting the heart from a corpse as an unidentified voice says “I swear in the name of god that we will eat from your hearts and livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog.”

For more than two years, Syrian forces under President Bashar al-Assad have battled anti-government factions, a conflict that’s sparked debate over whether Western countries should deliver arms to the rebels. The attack on the FT accounts highlights users’ concerns that it’s too easy to compromise social-media channels such as Twitter.

“We have now locked those accounts and are grateful for Twitter’s help on this,” Robert Shrimsley, managing editor for FT.com, said on the newspaper’s website. “Unfortunately this is an increasingly common issue for major news organizations.”

Last month, hackers hijacked the Associated Press’s Twitter account, sending stock markets down 1 percent in a matter of seconds by posting a false claim that U.S. President Barack Obama had been injured in an attack on the White House.

Twitter Security

“Twitter’s information-technology security is still weak even though it has become an official communication tool for many companies,” said Stefano Zanero, an assistant professor in Politecnico di Milano University’s computer engineering department. “This is why it would need, for example, a two-factor authentication system based on a second password sent to users’ mobile phones.”

Jim Prosser, a spokesman for San Francisco-based Twitter, said the company doesn’t “comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons.”

The FT, owned by Pearson Plc, confirmed the posts appeared between 12:38 p.m. and 12:42 p.m. London time today, and said that some of its employees had received phishing e-mails in the days before the attack, designed to trick them into revealing information.

On the newspaper’s @ftmedia Twitter page, a video clip -- since deleted -- was posted with the text “Jabnet A-Nosra terrorists executed innocent citizens #SEA #Syria.” In the video, a masked person appears, reading from a paper before shooting about nine people kneeling blindfolded in the back of their heads. The gunman is flanked by two people carrying black flags with a white motif.

The Onion, a satirical news organization headquartered in Chicago, on May 8 posted a summary of how it was attacked by a “Syrian Electronic Army.” The hack involved tricking employees to click on links to fake versions of familiar-looking websites that passed on login credentials. These credentials could then be used to access the organization’s social-media accounts.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cornelius Rahn in Berlin at crahn2@bloomberg.net; Christopher Spillane in London at cspillane3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net

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