Written by Lily Beckett
Was the hack that occurred on the US CENTCOM’s (a command of the US Department of Defence) Twitter account on Monday 12th January, at approximately 17:00 GMT, a genuine threat by ISIS? As Barack Obama’s spokesperson responded after being informed about the incident, ‘there is a significant difference between a large data breach and the hacking of a twitter account.’
The hacking group, claiming to be affiliated with ISIS, used the words ‘CyberCaliphate’ to sign off the few tweets they composed on the CENTCOM Twitter account. The group changed the account’s display icon to a picture displaying what is assumed to be an Islamic militant head, made anonymous by a headscarf, with the phrases ‘CyberCaliphate’ and ‘i love you ISIS’ printed alongside the figure. One tweet threatened, ‘AMERICAN SOLDIERS, WE ARE COMING, WATCH YOUR BACK!’ with an image attached of what seemed to be a list of US personnel details. Whether these details are particularly confidential in their content, or obtained through a security breach it is still unsure, but one screenshot of ‘hacked’ data showed information that the BBC has confirmed is already publicly available on Pentagon databases.
This seems to be more of a demonstration and publicity stunt than a real threat to confidential data on US web-bases. What makes these hacks especially effective, and slightly embarrassing, is the timing: the operation coincided with the end of Obama’s speech on newly developed plans to improve US cyber security since the hacks carried out on Sony Entertainment a few weeks ago. The speech was intended to reassure Americans that their personal information on the internet is protected and secure, but the CENTCOM incident has now resulted in a ridiculously ironic situation, emphasising the fact that the US really need to crack down on their cyber security issue.
At the time of writing, it is hard to say whether this cyber ‘attack’ holds any significance in relation to ISIS threats and their ability to access confidential US material online. To hack the official US Central Command Twitter account would have been tricky and needed some effort, but I agree with Obama’s spokesperson that it should not be a cause for huge concern. For all we know, the perpetrator could be a young internet troll in their bedroom just looking to cause some well-timed trouble. Twitter accounts get hacked far too often for this to cause a real panic as of yet, and it has still not been proven that any files the group accessed were private in the first place.