A group describing itself as the “CyberCaliphate” gained control of the official Twitter and YouTube pages of US Central Command (CENTCOM) on Monday and began posting messages supportive of the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS).
“We can confirm that the CENTCOM Twitter and YouTube accounts were compromised earlier today,” CENTCOM said in a statement after it regained control of the accounts. “We are taking appropriate measures to address the matter. We have no further information to provide at this time.”
The hack occurred at the same time US President Barack Obama was giving a speech on cybersecurity at the offices of the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C.
In a press briefing following the hack, White House press secretary Josh Earnest pointed out there’s a “difference between a large data breach and the hacking of a twitter account.” He also said the White House was investigating the incident.
On Twitter, the group posted a message that declared “Pentagon networks hacked”; it indicated it broke into military “networks and personal devices.” In the message, the CyberCaliphate identified itself as being “under the auspices of ISIS.” It included links to what it described as leaked military files. It then began posting screenshots it described as “China scenarios.”
A few hours after their initial comment, CENTCOM released another statement wherein they indicated confidential files were not leaked.
“Our initial assessment is that no classified information was posted. When we have more, we’ll be sure to let folks know,” the statement said.
The New York Times previously noted that “many of the documents posted by the hackers appear to be public records.”
In addition to posting the messages, some of which included threats against US soldiers, the hackers changed the CENTCOM account’s avatar to a picture of a masked jihadi along with the message “i love you isis.”
According to the Daily Beast’s Nancy Youssef, the Pentagon was at a “standstill” as staffers watched the messages publish on the hacked pages.
Within less than 40 minutes the Twitter messages were deleted. Both the CENTCOM YouTube and Twitter accounts have been suspended.
Last week, a hacker who also used the name Cyber Caliphate, hacked the Twitter feed of the Albuquerque Journal newspaper.
The hack comes as America and its allies continue a campaign of airstrikes against ISIS in its territory in Syria and Iraq.
UPDATE (5:07 p.m.): CENTCOM released another statement wherein they described the hack as “cybervandalism” that did not result in internal servers being “compromised.” View the full statement below:
“Earlier today, U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube sites were compromised for approximately 30 minutes. These sites reside on commercial, non-Defence Department servers and both sites have been temporarily taken offline while we look into the incident further. CENTCOM’s operational military networks were not compromised and there was no operational impact to U.S. Central Command. CENTCOM will restore service to its Twitter and YouTube accounts as quickly as possible. We are viewing this purely as a case of cybervandalism.
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.”
This post was updated at 4:06 p.m.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.