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AP twitter account hacked, fake tweet briefly sends markets into spiral

The Associated Press was latest victim in a rash of Twitter account hackings that have sent out phony news stories to numerous followers.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- One of the biggest news organizations in the world is not immune to sophisticated cyber-hackers.

On Tuesday, someone infiltrated an account for the Associated Press and posted an alarming fake news update.

In 140 characters or less, that phrase rocked the stock market, bringing up new concerns about how cyber crime can impact our daily lives.

The false tweet claimed two explosions at the White House injured the president.

“Thousands of people retweeted it, without checking to see if it was true again and so it spread very quickly,” explained Social Media Professor William Ward with SU’s Newhouse School. “Again, AP got on the hack really quickly and notified people, but the damage, in some ways, was already done.”

Within ten minutes, AP's corporate offices responded, offering public corrections. White House Spokesman Jay Carney responded to the rumor after someone in the crowd at a press briefing announced the AP account was hacked.

"Good. I thank you for that. I appreciate that. And I can say that the president is fine. I was just with him,” said White House Spokesman Jay Carney.

But, Wall Street was already reeling. The DOW fell 143 points, recovering only after the truth emerged.

“Social media can spread misinformation really quickly, but then, because you have all those people connected to it, they can also shut down those rumors and make those corrections much faster,” Ward continued.

The agency later reported that their corporate office had been targeted with phishing attempts, which often come in the form of e-mails with corrupted links. One click by one employee can give hackers network access. The false alarm has put pressure on Twitter to add a two-step verification process, so posts sent from an unrecognized or unverified phone or computer would raise a red flag.

“That leg-work up front could prevent these future incidences. So, it is time well spent, but it is time that we didn't have to spend previously because it has just become so serious. I guess it is just the world we live in now,” said Ward.

The Associated Press is now reporting that the Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for the hack. However, there is no proof of that yet. Experts say the claim demonstrates how social media could become an international tool to disrupt life in the U.S.

Over the weekend, CBS News confirmed that its account had also been hacked.

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