Hackers claiming to be working on behalf of Islamic State militants seized control of the Twitter and YouTube sites of the military's U.S. Central Command on Monday, but the Pentagon swiftly suspended the sites and said no classified material was breached.
The Twitter site was filled with threats that said “American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back.” Other postings appeared to list names, phone numbers and personal email addresses of military personnel as well as PowerPoint slides and maps.
Most of the material was labeled “FOUO,” which means “For Official Use Only,” but none of it appeared to be classified or sensitive information, suggesting the hackers did not breach classified material.
One of the documents appeared to be slides developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center focused on national security. The slides appeared to depict what it called “scenarios” for conflict with North Korea and China.
The tweets came shortly after U.S. Central Command posted its own tweets about the U.S. and partner nations continuing to attack Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria and one repeating a report that said France will deploy an aircraft carrier to the fight.
The hackers titled the Twitter page “CyberCaliphate” with an underline that said “i love you isis.” And the broader message referred to the ongoing airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and threatened, “We broke into your networks and personal devices and know everything about you. You'll see no mercy infidels. ISIS is already here, we are in your PCs, in each military base.”
It added: “US soldiers! We're watching you!”
The intrusion on the military Twitter account carried the same logo, CyberCaliphate name and photo that appeared on the Albuquerque Journal's website in late December when one of its stories was hacked.
Some IS militant videos also were posted on the YouTube site, purporting to show military operations and explosions.
“This is something we're obviously looking into, and something we take seriously,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. But he cautioned against comparisons to the broader hack attack against Sony. “There's a pretty significant difference between what is a large data breach and the hacking of a Twitter account,” he said.
A senior defense official confirmed that the two accounts were compromised and said U.S. Central Command was taking appropriate measures to address the matter. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak about it publicly on the record.
The military suspended the Central Command Twitter site and terminated the YouTube site. This is not the first time that U.S. government websites or other accounts have been hacked. It was not clear whether the site was attacked by the insurgent group or by sympathizers.
Images of the tweets include lists that appeared to show the names and phone numbers of military personnel.