Syrian hackers hit Obama-linked Twitter, Facebook accounts

WASHINGTON Tue Oct 29, 2013 2:15am IST

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn, October 25, 2013. REUTERS/Aaron Showalter/Pool

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn, October 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Aaron Showalter/Pool

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Syrian Electronic Army, a hacker group sympathetic to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on Monday seized control of an online tool used by an advocacy organization for U.S. President Barack Obama to redirect links sent from his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The link shortener used by Organizing for Action, a group that evolved from Obama's re-election campaign, was briefly hacked, an official from the group said. Link shorteners abbreviate Web links so they take up less space in a tweet, which is limited to 140 characters.

Obama's Facebook and Twitter pages carried links that were intended to take readers to a Washington Post story on immigration - but as a result of the hack, redirected readers to a video of the Syrian conflict instead.

However, Obama's Twitter account itself was not hacked, Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser said.

Obama rarely writes his own tweets from the @BarackObama Twitter handle, which is run by the Organizing for Action staff. However, when he does, they are signed with his initials.

The Syrian Electronic Army tweeted, "We accessed many Obama campaign emails (sic) accounts to assess his terrorism capabilities. They are quite high." It showed what appeared to be the Google email account of an Organizing for Action staffer.

The Syrian Electronic Army has undertaken several high-profile hacking attempts in the United States. In September it appeared to have struck a recruiting website for the U.S. Marine Corps, and the FBI that month also warned that the group might intensify its internet attacks as the United States weighed a military strike against Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government against its people.

The group has also targeted the New York Times' website and Twitter.

Syria has been locked in a civil war dating to March 2011, which appears to be in a stalemate for now. The conflict grew out of an uprising against four decades of Assad family rule, pitting mainly Sunni Muslim rebels against a president, Bashar al-Assad, whose Alawite faith is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal and Gerry Shih; Editing by Eric Walsh)