The attack against U.S. media sites increased in triple threat today. The Washington Post was the first victim, before CNN and the Times websites reported brief outages due to a hacking interference. The group who claimed responsibility and reveled in it? A group based in Syria, known as the SEA (Syrian Electronic Army). The SEA has targeted media publications in the U.S. previously. Outlets like NPR, The Onion, the New York Post and numerous others have pointed to the group for hack attacks.
The Daily Beast (another publication previously hit) advised the SEA has made previous threats against media outlets based in the West if Twitter slammed their accounts closed. Per Twitter the group released a tweet advising, “Our account has been closed 15 times. We warned that we will hack the Twitter accounts of the mass media if Twitter closed our accounts again. They closed our accounts, and so we have implemented the threat.”
Obviously, not an empty threat as the bigger news publications on today’s online market became victim to the group. The Washington Post advised the hack was completed by infiltrating a business partner of the Post’s called Outbrain. CNN stated their hack attacks were not direct, but “The security of a vendor plug-in that appeared on CNNi.com was briefly compromised today. The issue was quickly identified and plug-in disabled.” The Times refused to acknowledge directly their site was hacked, but reported it was down for several hours today, without reason. Common sense indicates the move was not some random coincidence.
The compromise, per the Washington Post happened because, “of a vulnerability in Outbrain, a third-party content recommendation service. Outbrain works by embedding a widget on websites filled with sponsored links, and it seems as though once the SEA had hacked Outbrain, that gave them access to redirect readers on certain pages to SEA-controlled sites.” The SEA took glee in accomplishing the hacks by spreading it on- where else? Twitter.
All three publications are back online and have reported no additional issues. Outbrain is not a small company, they provide widget services to nearly 100,000 blogs and websites, especially, as noted today, news outlets. The company did release a statement today:
We are aware that Outbrain was hacked earlier today. In an effort to protect our publishers and readers, we took down service as soon as it was apparent. The breach now seems to be secured and the hackers blocked out, but we are keeping the service down for a little longer until we can be sure it’s safe to turn it back on securely. We are working hard to prevent future attacks of this nature.
The hackers invaded the twitter feed of 60 Minutes back in April, imploring Americans to rise up against their government. The group blamed the Boston bombing on the government, calling it an inside job. They called President Obama a violent dictator who wanted nothing more but to imprison Americans and take their right of defense away. The SEA has long accused the West of vamping up terrorist attacks to implement a New World Order.
Time will only tell if the SEA will strike again to capture the eyes and attention of Americans. They hacked news outlets in no random order of political leaning- this of course draws curious glances from “truthers” and others in the U.S. that have long accused the government of portraying false flags. For now the Washington, Post, CNN and the Times websites are back, instead of defaulting to the SEA website. No one is quite sure the reason behind the attack; to get a message across or simply show disapproval of the media coverage of Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.