World War III scares posted by hacked NY Post, UPI Twitter feeds

AFP Photo / Damien Meyer
Social media watchers on Friday were treated to shocking and dramatic global developments courtesy of the New York Post and United Press International: World War III declared by the Pope! China and the United States engaged in a serious military battle!

Thankfully for the international community, it was just (another) case of hacked Twitter accounts going haywire.

Both UPI and the New York Post had their Twitter feeds hijacked at around 1 p.m. on Friday, as President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the media on cyber security and the need to beef up online defenses.

While the two leaders answered questions, the news organizations’ Twitter feeds were filled with reports of China condemning President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” before firing on and damaging of the USS George Washington, an American aircraft carrier based in the Pacific. The feeds also stated that the US was involved in “active combat” against China in the South China Sea.

READ MORE:US, UK plan cyber ‘war games’ to boost defense against hackers

“US Joint Chief of staff: USS George Washington damaged, US navy now engaged in active combat against Chinese vessels in South China sea,” read one tweet.

Another read: “JUST IN: Xi Jinping: Obama ‘condemned’ for Asia pivot, ‘has forced China to protect its interests through military means.'”

Meanwhile, UPI tweeted that Pope Francis declared “World War II has begun.”

Less dramatic -- but still very wrong -- was a NY Post business section tweet which said the Federal Reserve wants “negative interest rates to avoid market recession due to low oil prices.”

Both the Post and UPI quickly deleted the tweets after they were posted, and acknowledged they had been hacked.

Financial markets did not react to the sensational Twitter posts, but the Navy did put out a statement confirming that the USS George Washington was not attacked.

"Give the hackers this much credit, the George Washington is our permanent Pacific based carrier," tweeted John Noonan, spokesman for House Armed Services committee, according to CNN. "They at least did their homework."

READ MORE:Central Command Twitter account apparently hacked by CyberCaliphate

Still, the incidents underscore the difficulty that media outlets and other institutions have had securing their outlets from cyber attacks. Earlier this week, the US Central Command had its Twitter and YouTube accounts hacked, during which statements in support of the Islamic State were published. That case is currently under investigation.

In April 2013, the Syrian Electronic Army took control of the Associated Press’ Twitter feed and posted that an explosion had occurred at the White House, injuring President Obama.

Obama has outlined several new proposals to combat cyber threats in the wake of the Sony hack, including legislation that outlines enhanced information sharing between the government and private sector. He is expected to reveal more details on his plans during next week’s State of the Union speech.