FBI investigating cyber attacks on NBC, TPM

Dylan Stableford

The FBI is investigating pair of cyber attacks that were carried out on two different news organizations on Friday.

NBC News' Twitter feed was the victim of a hack late Friday afternoon, issuing several false reports of an apparent terrorist attack on New York's ground zero.

"Breaking News!" the first tweet read. "Ground Zero has just been attacked. Flight 5736 has crashed into the site, suspected hijacking."

The next tweet reported a second case of plane hijacking. "Flight 4782 is not responding, suspected hijacking," the tweet read. "One plane just hit Ground Zero site at 5:47. #groundzeroattacked"

Then: "This is not a joke, Ground Zero has just been attacked. We're attempting to get reporters on the scene. #groundzeroattacked"

A group calling themselves the Script Kiddies--which was apparently behind a similar hack of Fox News' Twitter feed on July 4--took credit for the cyber assault in a subsequent tweet.

NBC released a statement from its new digital chief Vivian Schiller: "The NBC News twitter account was hacked late this afternoon and as a result, false reports of a plane attack on ground zero were sent to @NBCNews followers. We are working with Twitter to correct the situation and sincerely apologize for the scare that could have been caused by such a reckless and irresponsible act."

Early Saturday, Schiller tweeted that the NBC News feed was "back in our control and reporting news. Tnx for your understanding." NBC said it is working with the FBI's computer crimes unit in an investigation of the incident.

In the July 4 stunt, the Script Kiddies--an offshoot of the hacker groups Anonymous and LulzSec--commandeered the Fox News Twitter account to report that President Barack Obama had been assassinated.

"This is a group that has been around for a few months," Barrett Brown, a Dallas-based computer maven who apparently once served as a spokesman for Anonymous, told MSNBC. "A lot of them don't like the mainstream media. But they could also just be doing this to get attention and increase their street cred."

Meanwhile, the website Talking Points Memo was the victim of a separate, massive server attack on Friday in apparent retaliation for posting the mugshots of 14 people alleged to be members of the Anonymous hacking group.

"As some of you may have noticed, TPM was offline and inaccessible for roughly 8 hours starting just before 5 p.m. on the East Coast this evening," TPM editor Josh Marshall wrote. "The site was the victim of a massive denial of service (DDOS) attack."

Marshall continued: "We had and still have no direct evidence that Anonymous was behind the attack. However, TPM has been online for 11 years and had never experienced a DDOS attack until today. So, given that Anonymous' signature has been denial of service attacks and the backlash against our publication of the photos, the logical inference is as apparent to us as anyone else."

Following the same strategy that PBS' Frontline employed under similar circumstances earlier this year, TPM communicated with its readers via Tumblr during the outage.