Local news accounts hijacked by CyberCaliphate

By Andrea Peterson

Social media accounts for two local media outlets were compromised by an individual or group calling itself “CyberCaliphate” on Tuesday. The hacker posted messages in support of the Islamic State, or ISIS.

The Albuquerque Journal and Salisbury, Md.-based CBS affiliate WBOC said both their social media accounts were compromised. A black and white graphic showing a figure with its face obscured and the text “CyberCaliphate” and “I love you ISIS” appeared on the Twitter pages of both media outlets today.

“ABQjournal’s Twitter and Facebook feeds were compromised early today,” the newspaper said in a short statement posted to its Web site. “The Journal reached out to Facebook and Twitter to help resolve this issue. Law enforcement agencies have been contacted are investigating.”

The Journal has since regained control of the affected accounts.

WBOC said in a statement that it had also reached out to law enforcement after its Twitter account and Web site were affected by an apparent hack.

“The hacker posted pro-Islamic State propaganda on both sites including comments such as ‘I love you ISIS,’ and ‘There is no law but Sharia!’ ” the TV station said in a statement.

“You’ll see no mercy infidels. We are already here, we are in your PCs, in each house, in each office,” said a message posted anonymously to text-sharing site Pastebin that was linked to by the compromised WBOC Twitter account. The message also claims the group has “hacked FBI databases.”

Frank Fisher,  media coordinator for the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, said the local FBI is “aware and looking into” the Albuquerque Journal incident.

Late last year, the Albuquerque Journal Web site was affected by another attack.  On Dec. 24, local television station KRQE 13 News reported that a group had taken over the newspaper’s Web site and posted a message claiming that they had “personal data from Albuquerque locals such as where we live and eat, even health insurance information.”

It’s unclear whether those behind the recent digital defacement spree are truly supporters of the Islamic State or merely pranksters.

But the Islamic State has leveraged social media to distribute graphic imagery and propaganda before. It also developed a Twitter app, known as “Dawn” or “The Dawn of Glad Tidings,”  to help it amplify those posts, according to a report from the Atlantic last year.

While advertised as a way to keep up on the latest Islamic State news, the application allows the group to take over the Twitter accounts of those who download the app to blast out coordinated messages, according to the Atlantic.

The Syrian Electronic Army, a loose group of computer hackers who support embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was notorious for this tactic. Last year, it claimed credit for hijacking one of the Associated Press’ Twitter accounts and tweeting a alert about a bombing on the White House. The tweet resulted in a dramatic, but very short-lived, dip in the stock market.

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