The official Twitter accounts of mainstream US news outlet ABC News and its daily show Good Morning America, were briefly taken over by hackers this week (23 March). The profiles, each with millions of followers, displayed a series of explicit messages left by the culprits.
A number of updates on both accounts – seemingly the work of a two individuals using the Twitter handles @The6Clerk and @PlzNoHack. Updates included "Breaking: @The6Clerk f****d yo b***h lol" and another which proclaimed a rapper had "died in a tour bus crash".
One now-deleted post on Good Morning America, read: Top Story: Our hackers support Trump and he is going to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain."
Another stated: "We are totally Russian hackers but we love @Potus."
Even as profile administrators struggled to regain complete access, further posts emerged. On ABC News, one read: "Shouts to real news" and tagged the account of rival broadcaster, CNN.
On Good Morning America, an update added: "Following first 50 people to follow @The6Clerk."
@The6Clerk, using the name "Savaged", only recently followed the news organisations, their profile shows. The account was created in September last year but has had little real activity or interactions.
An update on @PlzNoHack's account said: "Me Sav and Cyn hackin wit our handz behind our backs."
Throughout the past 12 months, there has been a slew of Twitter hacks impacting major brands and high-profile individuals. Victims have included Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Google's Sundar Pichai and – more recently – the accounts of Netflix, Marvel and the NFL.
In each of these incidents, a group called "OurMine" claimed responsibility. Despite using hacking techniques – likely relying on accounts with weak or duplicated password security – the OurMine collective purported to be a legitimate cybersecurity operation.
It is likely both ABC News and Good Morning Amercia had similar, if not the same, login credentials.
It is believed that hackers are increasingly exploiting credentials leaked from previous data dumps – including "mega-breaches" from Myspace and LinkedIn. They can plunder these to find old passwords still in use by celebrities and well-known figures and later exploit their accounts.
In a previous interview with Wired, one of the hackers of the three-person OurMine said last year: "There is a lot of people [who] want to check their security. We are not Blackhat hackers, we are just a security group...we are just trying to tell people that nobody is safe."
This latest incident, however, appears to be more of a prank than a concerted effort to help bulk up cybersecurity of these media firms. As the malicious tweets continued to be deleted, the Good Morning America account retweeted one update by @The6Clerk. It read: "ABC is trash".