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9/11 Anniversary Spurs Hacker Mischief

Sep 10, 20113 mins
Data and Information SecurityInternetPhishing

On the 10th anniversary of the attacks on Washington and New York, hackers aren't giving authorities a rest

Hackers are using the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to create online mischief.

The latest antics targeted NBC, several government agencies and the White House.

While most of the nation will be commemorating in solemn and respectful ceremonies the 10th anniversary of the attacks on Washington and New York, hackers aren’t giving authorities a rest.

On Friday, a hacker group that specializes in targeting large media outlets hijacked the NBC News Twitter account and posted bogus messages about an attack on “Ground Zero” in New York. It posted several messages saying there had been a plane crash at the site after a suspected hijacking.

Finally, the hackers decided to pull off the mask on their subterfuge and crowed, “NBCNEWS hacked by The Script Kiddies.”

An NBC executeve monitoring the Twitter account saw the bogus messages and alerted Twitter, which quickly suspended the account. The FBI is investigating the incident, MSNBC reported.

The hack attack was perfectly timed to make the NBC Nightly News, where anchor Brian Williams read a statement from the company. He said the network’s Twitter account had been hacked and that NBC was working to correct the situation. He also apologized for the scare “that could have been caused by such a reckless and irresponsible act.”

It appears that the Twitter account, which has 130,000 followers, was compromised through a spear phishing attack. Only three people know the password to the account. One of them, NBC Social Media Director Ryan Osborn, admitted to MSNBC that he recently clicked on an attachment in an email from someone he didn’t know.

Prior to the NBC attack, the Script Kiddies were known for their Fourth of July sortie this year on the Twitter account of Fox News. In that foray, they posted a series of bogus tweets announcing that President Barack Obama had been killed by an assassin.

While the Script Kiddies were doing their latest mischief, another group of Internet rogues, Team Poison, began drumming up support for a phone calling campaign on the federal government protesting U.S. foreign policy. The group has posted to the Internet the phone numbers of the White House, U.S. embassies in Libya and Afghanistan, the FBI and CIA and is exhorting its followers to call the numbers and leave the message: “Dear USA, your 9/11 is our 24/7. Sincerely. [a country that has been bombed/attacked by USA].”

The group maintained that “mass phone calls will have a huge effect on the business.” That seems to be a dubious assertion, since much of the federal government is closed on Sundays so there’s little business to disrupt.

Team Poison gained a measure of notoriety recently when it defaced a website operated by Research In Motion, the Canadian maker of the Blackberry smartphone. The hackers were upset that RIM agreed to cooperate with police to apprehend participants in the London riots.

The group has also been known to attack other hackers. It took down the LulzSec website, apparently because it believed members of Lulz were inferior hackers, or Script Kiddies.

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.