Several BBC Twitter accounts have been hacked, the corporation reports. The breach represents the latest in a series of large corporate Twitter feeds to be affected.
The BBC's weather, Arabic and Radio Ulster feeds were hijacked by a group calling itself Syrian Electronic Army, starting with a series of messages yesterday afternoon about fake weather conditions in Middle Eastern countries. These included tweets such as "Saudi weather station down due to head-on collision with camel" and "Chaotic weather forecast for Lebanon as the government decides to distance itself from the Milky Way." The Syrian Electronic Army has previously spread messages in support of Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad.
The @BBCweather account also tweeted "Syrian Electronic Army was here" and "Long Live #Syria Al-Assad", followed by subsequent tweets threatening and insulting Israeli Jews, countries in the area (including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Qatar) and governments supporting the Syrian opposition — including UK.
The BBC has, it says, regained control of all three accounts and the offending content has been removed. "We apologise to our audiences that this unacceptable material appeared under the BBC's name," said a spokesperson.
BBC staff were also alerted on Thursday to a phishing email sent to some accounts that contained a link that if clicked on, could expose password details. It is not known whether the two incidents are linked.
Experts are increasingly calling for Twitter to step up security and offer two-factor authentication … involving a disposable, single-use user password.
Internet security expert Graham Cluley commented "The good news is that the hack doesn't appear to have been done with the intention of spreading malicious links or scams. Instead, it appears that the Syrian Electronic Army are trying to spread political messages about Syria instead. You should always use hard-to-guess, hard-to-crack, unique passwords for your online accounts that you are not using anywhere else on the web."