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Hacktivists torch C4's Jon Snow's web diary, reveal 'nuke strike' on Syria

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Syrian hacktivists have chalked up more media-luvvie victims after hacking into and defacing blogs run by British broadcaster Channel 4.

The Syrian Electronic Army, which backs the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, took over an online diary maintained on behalf of veteran newscaster Jon Snow before posting a fictitious story about a tactical nuclear strike against Syria.

Hacktivists posted a screenshot of the administration panel for the WordPress web publishing software used by the Channel 4 blogs, showing off the grab as a trophy while claiming responsibility for the hack. Early indications suggest the compromise was not exploited to spread malware in drive-by downloads.

"The suspicion has to be that Channel 4 was running an old version of WordPress, vulnerable to a security exploit that allowed the hackers to gain access, or that an administrator had his password fished," writes security blogger Graham Cluley. "In the last few days, WordPress has released the latest version of its blogging platform – version 3.6."

Channel 4′s blogs were taken offline in response to the breach and replaced with a message stating "Something’s broken (or we’re making things better)" alongside a picture of characters from The IT Crowd sitcom. A separate section dedicated to Snow on the broadcaster's news website is running normally.

Cluley posted screenshots of the defacement and subsequent holding message by Channel 4 in a blog post here.

The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) has hacked numerous media organisation over recent months: it successfully targeted Twitter accounts and other social network profiles run by Al-Jazeera, the Associated Press, BBC, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, The Guardian, Human Rights Watch, America's National Public Radio, Thompson Reuters and more. Over recent weeks the group graduated to attacking into the backend systems of VoIP apps, such as Viber and Tango. The SEA also managed to take over three personal email accounts of White House employees, reportedly prompting the FBI to open an investigation.

This latter attack appears to have prompted a decision by Twitter to suspend the Syrian Electronic Army's official Twitter account, @Official_SEA12. The SEA set up replacement propaganda profiles on Twitter but these too were shut down, much to the apparent frustration of hacktivists who threatened war against Twitter. The SEA is now running a profile called @Official_SEA16, which boasted of the latest attacks against Channel 4.

The spate of attacks against media firms helped push the social network's rollout of two-factor authentication to secure profiles against the types of phishing attack the Syrian hacktivists specialise in. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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