WASHINGTON — The Twitter account for The Associated Press was hacked Tuesday and erroneously sent out a tweet saying there had been explosions at the White House, injuring President Barack Obama.
Within a few minutes, Twitter suspended the account, and Julie Pace, the chief White House correspondent for the AP, announced at the White House briefing that the account had been hacked.
Jay Carney, Obama’s press secretary, confirmed that the president was unharmed.
Editors at the AP soon followed with a statement saying that “The (AT)AP twitter account has been hacked. The tweet about an attack at the White House is false. We will advise more as soon as possible.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted more than 130 points when the news broke on Twitter — an indicator of traders’ presence on the social media platform — before immediately recouping the losses after it became clear that there had been no incident at the White House.
The AP typically uses Social Flow, a social media tool, to distribute tweets. But in this case, the attackers posted directly from the Web, according to the metadata associated with the tweet.
In the past few days, AP discovered that malware had infected some of its company computers, according to a spokeswoman. Hackers can use malware to gain a foothold inside a company’s computer network and, from there, can gain access to a company’s usernames and passwords to email, administrative and social media accounts.
Shortly after the account was suspended, Mike Baker, a reporter for the news organization, posted a message saying that the attack may have originated with a spear-phishing campaign, in which attackers send a cleverly disguised email from a friend, or work contact, that contains a malicious link or attachment.
Through a Twitter account, a group called the Syrian Electronic Army took credit for the attack.
This is the third high-profile corporate account to be hacked in recent months. In February, Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked, the company’s logo was replaced by a McDonald’s logo and rogue announcements began to appear. A day later the Twitter account for Jeep was also attacked.
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