Hackers compromised the NBC News Twitter account today and sent several fake tweets from the account about an attack on Ground Zero reminiscent of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
"Breaking News! Ground Zero has just been attacked. Flight 5736 has crashed into the site, suspected hijacking. More as the story develops," was the first tweet this afternoon. It was followed by two others, including one that started "This is not a joke."
The fourth tweet said "NBCNEWS hacked by The Script Kiddies."
An e-mailed NBC News statement said: "The NBC News twitter account was hacked late this afternoon and as a result, false reports of a plane attack on ground zero were sent to @NBCNews followers. We are working with Twitter to correct the situation and sincerely apologize for the scare that could have been caused by such a reckless and irresponsible act."
NBC News also used the Twitter account of its chief digital officer, Vivian Schiller, to alert followers to the problem. "Ignore tweets from @nbcnews till further notice. We've been hacked. Do not retweet," her account tweeted shortly early on.
A search for the NBC News Twitter profile shortly thereafter displayed the message "This user does not exist."
It's unclear who the Script Kiddies are. The profile for the Script Kiddies--a term used to describe novice hackers--also appeared to have been removed from Twitter.
The hacking comes on the heels of a similar problem with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak's Twitter account, which was used to tweet blatant spam yesterday. Wozniak told CNET that he wasn't aware of his account being hacked but that he would change his password. "I really don't use my Twitter account," he wrote in an e-mail. "I should. It's a good thing. But it's down on my priority list and I'm too short of time."
Twitter spokeswoman Lynn Fox, contacted in regards to the Wozniak incident, said the company does not comment on individual accounts.
Graham Cluley of security firm Sophos predicted that account hijinks of this sort would continue to happen until Twitter offered extra security measures for popular profiles.
"Twitter should be applauded for taking such quick action (in suspending the accounts), but isn't it time that there was better security available to accounts which have a large number of followers, or who (like media organizations) may cause public panics if someone breaks in and starts tweeting false news stories about terrorist attacks?" he wrote in a blog post today. "I, for one, would like to see Twitter and other social media sites offer an additional level of authentication for those who want to better defend their accounts. I fear that, unless that happens, we will continue to see high-profile accounts hacked and brands damaged as hackers run rings around them."
Updated 4:08 p.m. PT with Sophos comment and 3:50 p.m. PT with NBC News statement.