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Senior Staff Writer

New York Post hit by pro-Assad hackers

Aug 14, 20132 mins
Application SecurityCybercrimeData and Information Security

New York Post latest victim of the Syrian Electronic Army after the hackers manage to social engineer Social Flow, a company used by the Post for social media management

The Syrian Electronic Army, a pro-Assad group known for targeting social media in order to spread propaganda, has claimed a new victim; the New York Post. The attack was possible it seems, as the group social engineered the social media management platform Social Flow.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) took credit for compromising several accounts managed by the New York Post, including the primary Twitter feed, feeds maintained by three staffers, a business feed, and the publication’s Facebook account. However, unlike previous SEA attacks, the run against the NY Post didn’t spread propaganda. Instead, the compromised accounts were tagged with the message “Syrian Electronic Army Was Here…”

The SEA claims that they were able to access the Post’s accounts due to social engineering and compromising the company responsible for their metrics monitoring, Social Flow. Social Flow is a social media management platform that makes it possible to track multiple accounts, and measure the value of content in real-time.

[Social engineering: The basics]

Around the same time that SEA’s messages started showing up on the NY Post accounts, Social Flow’s website was defaced. The defacement consisted of a simple tag announcing that the SEA had compromised the domain, as well as a replacement background on the page with the group’s logo. The company told customers that an employee’s email account was compromised “in a phishing attack.”

“As a result, our Twitter and [Facebook] accounts were compromised. No customer access or data was compromised in this attack. As part of our security controls, we immediately took our service offline. We are following our security protocols to restore service and are communicating with customers directly,” Social Flow said in a statement.

The SEA has a long history with various website defacements and account takeovers under their belt. Since the middle of last year, the group has gained access to the Associated Press, eleven accounts maintained by Britain’s The Guardian, three accounts maintained by CBS News, and Thompson Reuters. In each case, the group uses their access to spread pro-Assad propaganda, supporting the government that is entrenched in a civil war, with nearly 100,000 deaths on their hands.

By Wednesday morning, the compromised accounts had been returned to full working order, and the SEA account linked to the incident was actively promoting the attack.