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US CENTCOM Twitter, YouTube Hacked, Apparently by IS Group


The Twitter and YouTube accounts belonging to U.S. Central Command were taken over briefly by hackers who say they are loyal to the Islamic State group.

The Twitter account on Monday posted threats to U.S. soldiers, warning "We are coming watch your back. ISIS."

Follow-up tweets included links to documents that appeared to contain the telephone numbers, email addresses, and home addresses of dozens of U.S. military officials. The account also leaked what appeared to be military maps of China and North Korea.

CENTCOM officials confirmed to VOA the Twitter and YouTube sites were attacked and say they are taking "appropriate measures to address the matter." Within 30 minutes, the CENTCOM accounts were suspended.

At a regular press briefing, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the incident is "something we are looking into and it is something we take seriously."

"I don't have a lot of information on this, it just occurred within the last hour or so. However, just a note of caution, for folks as they are covering this story, there is a pretty significant difference between what is a large data breech and the hacking of a twitter account. We're still examining and investigating this incident, but I don't have any information beyond that," said Earnest.

No security threat seen

Analysts say the hack does not represent a security threat. Isaac Porche, a cyber security analyst for the RAND Corporation, tells VOA the incident basically amounts to a "public relations headache."

"You hope that you don't get hacked and you're not left open as a vehicle for others to use your [social media] account. But in terms of sensitivity, these accounts are not supposed to be tied to any sensitive databases. So it's slightly embarrassing, yes, but it's not quite clear that it's damaging," said he.

Porche and other analysts say no classified or sensitive documents appear to have been leaked. Some of the material had already been available on the Internet and was not sensitive.

In some cases, the material posted on CENTCOM's Twitter appeared juvenile or incoherent, including one picture of a goat in an office with the caption "we are in your PCs" and a profile photo that contained the message, "I Love You, ISIS."

Based at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, CENTCOM oversees the U.S.-led air war against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Hackers claiming allegiance to the Islamic State had previously taken over the Twitter accounts of several news organizations in the states of Maryland and New Mexico. Some of the threats and hashtags in those cases appeared similar to the tweets that appeared on CENTCOM’s Twitter account Monday.

Obama on cyber security

The Monday hack attacks took place at the same time President Barack Obama was delivering a speech on expanding cyber security.

In a speech Monday, at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., Obama said data hacking presents a direct threat to American consumers.

In outlining newly proposed legislation, Obama said companies will have to alert customers within 30 days if their personal data has been compromised. The move follows several major security hacks at some of the country's largest retailers, including Target and Home Depot.

Other proposals include providing adults with free access to their credit scores and preventing student data from being sold to a third party.

The proposals are expected to make up part of the president's State of the Union address on January 20. It is unclear whether the Republican-led Congress will take up either of the proposals.

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