Hackers took control of the Associated Press Twitter account yesterday and sent a false tweet of two explosions in the White House that briefly shook US financial markets.
In the latest high-profile hacking incident involving social media service Twitter, an official @AP account reported that explosions at the White House injured President Barack Obama. Shortly afterward AP spokesman Paul Colford told Reuters the tweet was “bogus.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that Obama was fine soon after the tweet went out a little after 1pm EDT (1700 GMT).
A group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army, which is supportive of that country’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, yesterday 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 programme, among others.
The message, which went out to the AP’s nearly 2mn Twitter followers, sent the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average plunging sharply before they recovered. Stock and bond futures also were affected.
Some traders blamed automatic electronic trading for the sharp fall and recovery. A spokesman for the Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment.
The AP’s Twitter account was suspended shortly after the fake tweet, and the news organisation later reported that the tweet came after hackers made repeated attempts to steal the passwords of AP journalists.
A Twitter spokesman declined to comment on the AP breach, saying the company does not comment “on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons.” An FBI representative had no immediate comment on the AP hacking incident.
In what one trader described as “pure chaos,” the three-minute plunge triggered by the tweet briefly wiped out $136.5bn of the S&P 500 index’s value, according to Reuters data.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average temporarily dropped 143.5 points, or 0.98%.
Earlier this year, hackers also hijacked Twitter accounts of Chrysler’s Jeep brand and fast-food chain Burger King.
Bloomberg’s professional trading platform started incorporating tweets earlier this year. Yesterday, spokeswoman Sabrina Briefel said the fake tweet did appear on the Bloomberg terminal. She said the company was not reconsidering its decision to include tweets.