When it comes to parody news site the Onion, it's hard to tell if anything it publishes is real. So, after the site's Twitter feed had several tweets on Monday saying "The Syrian Electronic Army Was Here" and other similar messages, few people batted an eyelash.
However, both the Syrian Electronic Army and the Onion have confirmed that indeed the site's Twitter account was hacked, according to The New York Times.
Besides announcing that "The Syrian Electronic Army Was Here," the hacking group, which supports Syrian President Bashar Assad, also tweeted a message saying that the "UN retracts report of Syrian chemical weapon use," along with several tweets disparaging Israel, according to the Huffington Post. All of these messages have now been taken down.
The Syrian Electronic Army posts appeared alongside legitimate Onion tweets, such as "Scientists Discover 90 Percent Of Earth's Atmosphere Made From Thoughts, Prayer" and "Seedless Watermelon Coming To Grips With Fact It'll Never Be Able To Have Kids."
While the Onion acknowledged the attack in several satirical articles on its Web site, a member of the Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility to The New York Times. This member, who goes by the hacker handle Th3 Pr0, said that the group went after the Onion for a parody story the site wrote about Assad titled, "Hi, In The Past 2 Years, You Have Allowed Me To Kill 70,000 People."
"The Onion is a satire news organization and quite often is more trusted to reflect the news than the corporate media is known to," Th3 Pr0 told The New York Times in an e-mail. "Recently they have published an article that savages Syria and its current circumstances. This hurt the feelings of many Syrians who relied on it to tell the truth in a funny way. We hoped that our effort to correct their news would draw attention to the fact that it was likely that an outside decision was involved in changing The Onion's tune."
The Syrian Electronic Army has been on a Twitter hacking jag as of late. Besides the Onion, it also recently got into the accounts of the Associated Press, NPR, CBS, the Guardian, and the BBC. In the case of the Associated Press, the hackers sent out a false "breaking" news tweet that claimed the White House had been bombed and President Barack Obama had been injured. This news caused a sudden plunge in the stock market.
For its part, Twitter knows that many high-profile accounts have suffered at the hands of hackers in recent weeks, but it's putting some of the responsibility on the account holders themselves. In a memo the social network sent to major media and news outlets last week, it said that the "attacks will continue" and the incidents appear to be caused from spear phising targeting corporate e-mails. Twitter warned the news outlets to minimize the number of people who have access to its accounts and to not use the same computer for tweeting, surfing the Web, and reading e-mail.