A confidential bulletin sent by the FBI to companies across the US warning of further cyberattacks by the Sony hackers may have been based on fake posts and messages created by a prankster.
Earlier today we reported that the FBI sent a bulletin on Dec. 24 that warned companies of further threats made by the Guardians of Peace hacker gang. That’s the group that targeted Sony Pictures, but the FBI warned that it was threatening a media organisation as well.
A cached PasteBin post revealed the threat the FBI was referring to was targeting CNN, and even included a reference to anchor Wolf Blitzer.
Here’s the post that the FBI was referring to in its bulletin:
The result of investigation by CNN is so excellent that you might have seen what we were doing with your own eyes.
We congratulate you success.
CNN is the BEST in the world.
You will find the gift for CNN at the following address.
P.S. You have 24 hours to give us the Wolf.
But hours after the story published, a journalist who writes about cybersecurity stepped forward and claimed that he wrote the threat to CNN as a prank, copying another message that he found online and simply swapping some of the words.
Mediaite reports that David Garrett Jr., a writer for Homeland Security Examiner, took to Twitter and posted screenshots which appear to show that he was the author of the threat to CNN.
Here’s one of the posts that Garrett offered up as proof that he was behind the message:
It’s important to note that there’s no proof that the PasteBin post mentioning CNN was a prank. Neither Garrett nor the FBI has posted definitive evidence about the threat.
The FBI issued the following statement to Business Insider when asked about the Dec. 24 bulletin:
As part of our commitment to public safety, the FBI routinely shares information with the private sector and law enforcement community. We take all threats seriously and will continue to disseminate relevant information observed during the course of our investigations, in order to help protect the public against any potential threats.
But if Garrett is to be believed, then the FBI may have been fooled by a simple prank. If the FBI published a security bulletin based on anonymous and unauthenticated internet posts, that’s going to make it more difficult for people to believe its other claims.
Along with the threat against CNN, the FBI also mentioned another PasteBin post that mocked the bureau’s own investigation. If the prankster is to be believed, that second post could also be fake.
Some security experts have cast doubt on the FBI’s claim that North Korea was behind the hack of Sony Pictures. If the FBI has been fooled by an online prankster, that could make its claim that North Korea ordered the hack more difficult to believe.
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