On Tuesday an @AP tweet caused panic and hit the stock market, by broadcasting that the White House had been the subject of two explosions, and that President Barack Obama had been injured. AP's Twitter account had been hacked.
A hacker who had accessed the main Twitter account for Associated Press sent out a moment of sheer panic, with a message that was very quickly retweeted many, many times.
Basically, just after 1 pm EST, the account @AP sent a tweet which read: “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.”
The claim was quickly refuted by journalists inside the White House at that time and it was said that no blast had occurred and that the claim of the attack was false.
The news agency announced, "The @AP Twitter account has been suspended after it was hacked. The tweet about an attack on the White House was false."
Moments later, White House spokesman Jay Carney went on the air to confirm that President Obama had not been harmed by any reported explosion. Carney said, “The president is fine, I was just with him.”
However, the minute the fake tweet went live, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and also the S&P 500 went for drastic nosedives, before quickly rebounding once the truth was out there again.
Although no evidence has yet been provided, it seems the Syrian Electronic Army is taking credit for the hack attack. Twitter reportedly suspended their main account just days before, after they took responsibility for hacking @60Minute, @48Hours and @CBSDenver, all three of which accounts are registered to CBS News.
The following is the current state of the Syrian Electronic Army Twitter profile:
Twitter screen capture
Syrian Electronic Army tweets after hacking @AP
Tuesday's hack also, apparently, targeted multiple accounts, as the Associated Press confirms that their @AP_Mobile account has been compromised as well as the @AP account.
According to Mike Baker, a reporter for AP based in Olympia, Washington, his company's main Twitter account was hacked “less than an hour after some of us received an impressively disguised phishing email.”
A spokesperson for AP also confirmed in a report in the New York Times on Tuesday that malware has infected a number of the company’s computers in recent days.
The Associated Press’ main Twitter account that was hacked is followed by nearly 2 million social media users.
Forbes is saying that this hack attack highlights two features that Twitter desperately needs. One is better security through two-factor authentication, and the second is an editorial function that allows account holders to post corrections to tweets, such as the one sent, that contain false information. This certainly might have prevented the Dow Jones doing such a swoop and climb.