September 16, 2011
Just last week, on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, NBC News’ Twitter account was hacked by a group calling itself The Script Kiddies. Posing as NBC News, The Script Kiddies falsely tweeted that an airliner had been hijacked and flown into the Ground Zero site in New York City. This is the second such attack perpetrated by The Script Kiddies, the first being a July 4 hack of the Fox News Twitter claiming that President Obama had been assassinated. In both cases, the spurious posts were quickly removed by Twitter and the news agencies.
Traditionally, hackers have chosen their targets in order to either profit financially or make a political statement (never mind the advanced persistent threats represented by nation states and powerful criminal organizations); recent publicized attacks demonstrate this. Fame and reputation have always been motivators for hackers but, in recent years, business-savvy blackhats seem to have outnumbered the jesters of the digital underground by a wide margin. Twitter hacks are hardly uncommon and generally seem to be done more for amusement than for any truly nefarious purpose, but they mostly slip by unnoticed aside from a handful of celebrity victims and entertainment reporters. As far as I can tell, the NBC and Fox attacks are no different in terms of motivation, but the side effects are much more serious. Cyber terrorism has been a buzz topic for some time now and, while false news reports may rank relatively low on the impact scale, it is probably only a matter of time before this sort of event occurs specifically in order to incite panic in the general population. That would be a real paradigm shift but I don’t know that we’re there yet. These attacks appear to serve no obvious purpose beyond self-promotion.