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September 27, 2011

Hackers Targeting Twitter Accounts of Hugo Chavez Detractors
By Beecher Tuttle
TMCnet Contributor

A group of hackers referring to itself as "N33" has taken credit for commandeering the Twitter (News - Alert) accounts of at least nine outspoken critics of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, the Associated Press reports.

The hacks began early this month, when Venezuelan TV soap opera writer Leonardo Padron – a regular Twitter user who routinely took shots at Chavez – found that he was unable to log in to his account. Padron later discovered that someone had hijacked his account and sent out a number of crude and self-chastising messages.

"In no way have I contributed to combat racism, discrimination, cultural alienation," read one of the tweets. "My soap operas feed these evils in our society."

Several other Chavez critics were dealt similar fates, including three journalists, a TV show host, an ex-diplomat and a humorist, says the AP.

N33 became a known entity on Sept. 2 when it posted a statement taking credit for the hacks. The group, which denied having any affiliation with a government body, said that the hacks were retribution for "improper use of Twitter" and for attacking Chavez during a time of illness.

Venezuela's president was diagnosed with an unidentified form of cancer earlier in the year, but told supporters on Sunday that his body feels "healthy" after four rounds of chemotherapy.

After the Twitter attacks died down in mid-September, N33 began hacking the email accounts of Chavez critics and posting personal messages and pictures on its own Twitter account, @Cain_Supremo, which has since been shut down.

Twitter spokeswoman Kristen Hawley told the news source that a common hacking method known as phishing was most likely the culprit in the attacks.

 "Most attempts to gain access to accounts target users by sending them fraudulent messages meant to trick them into sharing their passwords," she said. "A personal email account that's compromised is the second most likely way an intruder gains access to Twitter accounts."

The hacking of Twitter accounts has become an all-too-common problem, and one that the micro-blogging site is almost helpless to prevent.

Earlier this month, hackers broke into an NBC Twitter feed and issued a fake terror alert just days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

“Breaking News! Ground Zero has just been attacked. Flight 5736 has crashed in the site, suspected hijacking. More as the story develops," the fake tweet read.

Fox News also had its Twitter account hacked in early July. The fake tweet reported that President Obama had been fatally shot while campaigning in Iowa.

Both networks apologized and amended the accounts, but the concern over Twitter hacking still remains.

Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves


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