Saturday, September 10, 2011

FBI joins search for NBC News Twitter hackers

The FBI joined the search late Friday for hackers who gained access to a Twitter account belonging to NBC News.

The malicious pranksters sent out a handful of false messages that an airplane had crashed at Ground Zero in New York City – causing more confusion over what had happened with the Twitter account than panic.

NBC News quickly suspended the account and notified the public that the messages were false.

"The NBC News Twitter account was hacked late this afternoon and as a result, false reports of a plane attack on ground zero were sent to @NBCNews followers," said NBC News in a statement that Nightly News host Brian Williams also read on air. "We are working with Twitter to correct the situation and sincerely apologize for the scare that could have been caused by such a reckless and irresponsible act."

A group calling itself "The Script Kiddies" claimed responsibility via a tweet on the hacked account, which has nearly 133,000 followers.

The fake tweets, if taken seriously, could have caused widespread panic.

"Breaking News! Ground Zero has just been attacked. Flight 5736 has crashed into the site, suspected hijacking. more as the story develops," read the first tweet, which appeared at 5:48 p.m. Eastern Time.

A follow-up message four minutes later read: "Flight 4782 is not responding, suspected hijacking. One plane just hit Ground Zero site at 5:47."

Then, three minutes later: "This is not a joke. Ground Zero has just been attacked. We're attempting to get reporters on the scene."

NBC staffers noticed the false tweets at around 6 p.m. and contacted Twitter, which suspended the account.

By about 7 p.m. Eastern, the account was restored and the false tweets removed.

The Script Kiddies' commandeering of NBC News' Twitter feed follows a series of recent hackings of social media feeds by the group, reported to be an offshoot of a hacker collective known as Anonymous.

In July, The Script Kiddies also gained access to a Twitter feed belonging to Fox News that it used to spread a false report that President Obama had been assassinated.

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