Hackers on Tuesday seized the Twitter account of The Associated Press — one of the world’s largest news organizations — and sent out a false posting about explosions at the White House that sent the financial markets plunging within seconds.
The fake tweet about two blasts said that President Barack Obama had been injured.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that Obama was fine soon after the tweet went out shortly after 1 p.m., Bloomberg News reports.
Hackers had tried repeatedly to gain access to AP reporters’ passwords, the news agency said. The AP said that it had suspended its account and would work to fix the vulnerability.
The fake tweet was received by nearly 2 million of AP’s Twitter followers, Bloomberg reports.
“We’ve obviously been hacked on our AP Twitter account,” Paul Colford, an AP spokesman, told Bloomberg. “That tweet about the White House is obviously bogus.”
Jim Prosser, a spokesman for San Francisco-based Twitter, declined to comment.
A group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army, which supports that country's leader, Bashar Al-Assad, on Tuesday claimed responsibility on its own Twitter feed for the AP hack.
The group has also claimed it was behind past hacks of Twitter accounts for National Public Radio, BBC, and CBS's "60 Minutes" program, Bloomberg reports.
Other large news organizations that have been recently hacked include The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index each fell about 1 percent before rebounding.
A separate Twitter account operated by the AP’s corporate communications team followed up minutes later with its own message: “That is a bogus @AP tweet.”
The false tweet spotlights the close ties between social media and financial markets. The AP’s main Twitter account, @AP, had nearly 2 million followers before the hacking, Bloomberg reports.
The incident shows the risk of social media, said Cathy Baron Tamraz, chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Business Wire, who called it an “object lesson” in why social media isn’t a substitute for press releases.
“I’ve got over 100 technologists in my shop,” said Tamraz, whose company distributes news releases for corporate clients. “What they spend their time doing is figuring out what the bad guys want to do and preventing them from doing it.
“That’s the kind of thing I don’t think these social sites were even set up to do,” Tamraz told Bloomberg. “That’s not their core competency.”
The Associated Press, a not-for-profit news organization financed by its newspaper and broadcast members, was founded in 1846.
The New York-based news operation has more than 2,000 journalists worldwide.
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