FBI on trail of US military hackers
The FBI is investigating after hackers claiming to work on behalf of Islamic State militants seized control of the Twitter and YouTube sites of the US military.
The Pentagon swiftly suspended the sites yesterday and said it appeared no classified material was breached.
The hacker group, which calls itself CyberCaliphate, appears to be the same one that is under FBI investigation for hijacking the websites or Twitter feeds of media outlets in the last month, including a Maryland television station and a New Mexico newspaper.
Defence chiefs said they had been in contact with the FBI and that the previous breaches by the group raises questions about whether the hackers have any real connection to the Islamic State militants that are under US and coalition attack in Iraq and Syria.
FBI spokesman Joshua Campbell said the bureau was investigating the US Central Command Twitter and YouTube breaches and was working with the Pentagon to determine the scope of the incident.
The Central Command Twitter site was filled with threats that said: "American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back." Other postings appeared to list names, phone numbers and personal email addresses of military staff as well as PowerPoint slides and maps.
Most of the material was labeled "FOUO" - For Official Use Only - but none of it appeared to be classified or sensitive information, suggesting the hackers did not breach secret material. Central Command said none of the information and documents posted on the hacked site was from the command's internet servers or social media sites.
The breach affected only the Twitter and YouTube sites, which reside on commercial, non-Defence Department internet servers. Central Command said its operational and military networks were not compromised, but officials are notifying law enforcement about the possible release of personal information that was posted on the Twitter site.
One of the documents appeared to be slides developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory, a government-funded research and development centre focused on national security.
The slides appeared to depict what it called "scenarios" for conflict with North Korea and China. It is not clear where the documents came from or how long ago they might have been taken, since some of the information was as much as a year old.
"This is little more than a prank or vandalism. It's inconvenient and it's an annoyance. But that's all it is," said Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. "It in no way compromises our operations in any way shape or form."
Col Warren said the Pentagon was in touch with Twitter and YouTube to ensure military passwords and other security for such public websites were adequate.
The tweets came shortly after Central Command posted its own tweets about the US and partner nations continuing to attack Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria and one repeating a report that said France would deploy an aircraft carrier to the fight.
The hackers titled the Central Command Twitter page "CyberCaliphate" with an underline that said "i love you isis". And the broader message referred to the continuing air strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and threatened: "We broke into your networks and personal devices and know everything about you. You'll see no mercy infidels. ISIS is already here, we are in your PCs, in each military base."
It added: "US soldiers! We're watching you!"