Al-Jazeera SMS platform hacked by Syrian hacktivists

Al-Jazeera has had its SMS news alert service hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army, a pro-Syrian government group, which began sending out false news alerts. “The message claiming that [Qatar]‘s prime minister has been the target of an assassination attempt… is false and was a result of a hack,” reads the statement on the Arabic al-Jazeera website. Another false alert said that the wife of Qatar’s emir, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, had been wounded.

Al-Jazeera also took to Twitter to explain the breach: “We’d like to inform our subscribers that al-Jazeera SMS service has been compromised by hackers who have sent fake news,” it tweeted.

The Syrian Electronic Army says that it “supporting the cause of the Syrian Arab people by armaments with science and knowledge against the campaigns led by the Arab media and Western on our Republic by broadcasting fabricated news about what is happening in Syria.”

Al-Jazeera was also attacked in July, and one of its Twitter feeds was used to send a series of pro-Assad messages.. Its English language website was attacked as well.

But Al-Jazeera is only the latest disinformation target. Reuters’ Twitter feed was compromised in August, and false tweets were sent out that were meant to create the impression of a rebel collapse in Aleppo. Then, the Russian Foreign Ministry had to deny another Twitter account purporting to be a Russian diplomat announcing the death in Damascus of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In April, Saudi-based broadcaster Al Arabiya lost control of one of its Twitter accounts, and messages were put out suggesting a coup in Qatar.

Then there are other hacks that have been meant more as political statements. The Harvard University website was defaced earlier in the summer by the Syrian Electronic Army with a picture of Assad in full military uniform. Syrian emails, including the personal emails of Assad and his wife, have been breached by both Anonymous and other Syrian activists. 

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