Feeds

Oh, those crazy Syrian hackers: Now Wash Post, CNN, Time vandalised

Gawd darn it, can't anyone secure their websites?

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

Syrian hacktivists claim they are the vandals responsible for scribbling over the websites of CNN, Time mag and The Washington Post yesterday.

But these latest boasts by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) are somewhat misleading, according to computer security experts who say that the hacking crew actually ransacked Outbrain - a marketing biz used by WashingtonPost.com, Time.com and plenty of others to provided links to related articles and stuff online.

It's understood the miscreants, who back Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, compromised Outbrain's systems and hijacked those embedded links to point to the SEA's website. Outbrain confirmed its security was breached, which it said was pulled off using phishing emails posing as messages to staff from its chief exec.

Marc Gaffan, co-founder of web security firm Incapsula, explained: "The cause of the breach was actually performed by sending phishing emails to all Outbrain employees which caused them to surrender their email passwords. With access to employee email accounts the hackers were able to obtain or reset passwords to the admin areas of the content marketing platform, leading to the visible part of the breach."

"If Outbrain's admin areas had two-factor authentication enabled on them, this could have been prevented," he suggested.

In a statement, The Washington Post added that one of its staffers did have his Twitter profile compromised by the SEA earlier this week, but explained that the main aspect of Thursday's hack relied on breaking into Outbrain's systems:

Earlier this week the Twitter account of one of our journalists was compromised as part of a larger attack aimed at social media management group SocialFlow, and Thursday an attack on content recommendation service Outbrain caused some of our stories to redirect to the the SEA homepage.

Outbrain responded to the hack by temporarily suspending its services. A detailed timeline on how the compromise unfolded can be found here.

The SEA, meanwhile, congratulated itself on drilling into Outbrain's control panels on its official Twitter account:

‪Outbrain's content-recommendation widget, embedded into web pages, is supposed to help internet publishers boost their online traffic. Users are offered links to articles and other stuff to read or watch.‬ SEA foot soldiers alleged they obtained access to Outbrain's email spools, but this remains unconfirmed.

The Syrian Electronic Army is a loose-knit hacker group loyal to President al-Assad. Its campaign of online disruption began in mid-2011, and has involved distributed denial-of-service attacks against servers, phishing emails to hoover up passwords, pro-Assad graffiti on websites, and spamming against governments, online services and media outlets that are perceived hostile to the government of civil-war-torn Syria.

Its speciality is firing off spear-phishing emails to hijack Twitter accounts and other social-networking profiles run by media organisations and use the compromised logins to push links to pro-Assad propaganda.

Victims over recent months include Al Jazeera, the Associated Press, BBC, the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Guardian, Human Rights Watch, America's National Public Radio, Thompson Reuters and more. Over recent weeks the group diversified into attacking into the backend systems of VoIP apps, namely Viber and Tango. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.