At 12.30 pm EST, on Monday, 12th January, 2015, US Central Command (CENTCOM)’s account on Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) began to display the name ‘CyberCaliphate’ against a black background followed by the slogan ‘i love you isis’ in white lettering. Signed by ISIS, synonymous with Islamic State, it also featured military documents believed to have been extracted from the Pentagon’s archives.
The situation was ‘status quo’ for the next 30 minutes when realization dawned that the account had been hacked and its security compromised to the point of documents being released for public viewing. Swift action followed in form of suspension of both YouTube and Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) accounts of CENTCOM for the next few hours with the view to assess the extent of damage.
Subsequently, CENTCOM released an official statement on Monday evening acknowledging that the occurrence of security breach but reiterating that it had failed to cause any serious damage. The statement went on to clarify –
“In the meantime, our initial assessment is that no classified information was posted and that none of the information posted came from CENTCOM’s server or social media sites. Additionally, we are notifying appropriate DoD and law enforcement authorities about the potential release of personally identifiable information and will take appropriate steps to ensure any individuals potentially affected are notified as quickly as possible.”
On their part, the hackers who, as per CNBC, were either a part of ISIS or sympathized with the organization capitalized on Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR)’s popularity by posting threats, one of which read as follows –
“You’ll see no mercy infidels. ISIS is already here, we are in your PCs, in each military base. With Allah’s permission we are in CENTCOM now. We won’t stop! We know everything about your wives and children. U.S. Soldiers! We’re watching you!”
Although officials were relieved that there was hardly any concern pertaining to leaking of sensitive information, the incident did cause a lot of embarrassment, more so because it took place just as President Obama was delivering a speech on the importance of cyber-security.
While the term ‘CyberCaliphate’ was unknown to majority of American military and intelligence officials, the incident was taken seriously in political circles, especially since CENTCOM’s account with Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) had been launched only a few hours earlier.
This article has been written by Vinita Basu.