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SEA hacks Reuters website widget DESPITE 2FA security

Ad agency Taboola unwittingly provides backdoor for attackers

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Hacktivists with the Syrian Electronic Army have hit news agency Reuters again.

Surfers intending to catch up with the latest news were briefly redirected to a page run by the Syrian Electronic Army. The page (screenshot via HotforSecurity here) berated Western media reports about the conflict in Syria.

The SEA has previous form for attacking Reuters on the web. It hijacked the news agency's Twitter feed last July.

The latest attack is a tad more subtle and involved exploiting systems at Taboola, a third party ad network ‪used by the news agency.‬ Reuters, like many other outlets, embedded Taboola's recommended content widget on its site.

In a statement Taboola admitted the hack, which it said was carried out using a phishing attack, without going into details. Sophisticated multi-stage phishing attacks are the SEA's favourite hacking technique.

Today [Sunday], between 7AM - 8AM EDT, an organization called the “Syrian Electronic Army” hacked Taboola’s widget on Reuters.com.

The intruder was redirecting users that accessed article pages on reuters.com to a different landing page.

The breach was detected at approximately 7:25am, and fully removed at 8am. There is no further suspicious activity across our network since, and the total duration of the event was 60 minutes.

While we use 2-step authentication, our initial investigation shows the attack was enabled through a phishing mechanism. We immediately changed all access passwords, and will continue to investigate this over the next 24 hours.

Taboola's other media clients include TMZ, Time, the BBC, and USA Today. The attack was limited to Taboola's widget on Reuters.

Hacktivists at the SEA posted screenshots to support claims that they had also broken into Taboola's PayPal account. Taboola made no comment on this point.

The Taboola attacks are similar to an attack against content recommendation site Outbrain by the SEA last August. The breach meant surfers to popular websites such CNN, The Washington Post and Time magazine were confronted by a pro-Assad propaganda instead. ®

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