Threat Management

Syrian hacktivists target Sky News’ Google Play website, Twitter help account

The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) claimed another victim over the weekend, this time it was the U.K.-based broadcaster Sky News.

The hacktivist group, which has taken responsibility for recent Twitter account hijacks against other media organizations, including The Associated Press and NPR, defaced Sky News' app pages on its Google Play store account. The pages since have been taken offline, and new app downloads currently are unavailable.

The vandals also temporarily took over Sky News' Help Team Twitter account to send out a bogus tweet stating that the company was aware of some of its Android apps being hacked and suggested that users "remove the apps" if they've already installed them.

Many certainly believed the tweet, but Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, was skeptical from the start given the SEA's history of Twitter account compromises. He spotted several indicators that the tweet wasn't actually sent by Sky News, including the means by which the tweet was sent – the web versus the company's typical "Lithium Social Web" software – and that the message wasn't grammatically correct.

It turns out, Cluley was right. The intruders only were able to deface the apps pages, not actually hack the apps. Later, Sky News reclaimed control of its Twitter help account and tweeted that its account "is back up and running again, everything has been checked over and it's all good."

The account also tweeted: "Several of Sky's Android apps have been temporarily removed from the Google Play store after app pages were defaced early on Sunday morning."

Sky News added that there was no need for customers to remove any apps that they already had installed.

The SEA is believed to be made up of supporters of the repressive regime of Syrian President Bashir Assad. In the past, it said it has targeted media companies for writing and reporting negatively on the war-torn country. According to reports, the latest intrusion may be revenge for what it says is a false story alleging the SEA was responsible for a failed attempt to attack the Israeli port city of Haifa's water supply.

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