The diplomatic spat between Turkey and the Netherlands spilled into the internet on Wednesday after a large number of Twitter accounts including news agencies, and political entities were hacked by a pro-Turkish group and posted content supporting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his feud with Europe, with hashtags in Turkish reading “NaziGermany” and “NaziHolland.”
As Bloomberg reports, the messages and swastikas appeared on the verified Twitter accounts of German newspaper Die Welt, Forbes Magazine, Duke University, BBC North America, UNICEF, and Reuters Japan. Also targeted were the Twitter accounts of the European Parliament, French politicians like Alain Juppé, Sprint's CEO Marcelo Claure, among others. The attacks, which appeared to be simply a form of political vandalism, used the hashtags #Nazialmanya or #Nazihollanda.
The tweets included a swastika and described the attack as a “little Ottoman slap.” “See you on April 16,” they read, referring to the date of Turkey’s referendum to grant more powers to Erdogan, and finish with: “What did I write? Learn Turkish.” A four-minute video attached to the tweets begins with an Erdogan speech in which he says: “If we’re going to die, let’s die like men.” It then features scenes from various Erdogan speeches, starting with his showdown with then-Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos in 2009, as a campaign song chanting his name, “Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” plays in the background.
Following the hijacking, BBC North America tweeted that it “temporarily lost control” of its account, but normal service has resumed. Some of the tweets have been deleted.
Hi everyone - we temporarily lost control of this account, but normal service has resumed. Thanks.— BBC North America (@BBCNorthAmerica) March 15, 2017
Shortly after the attacks, Twitter spokeswoman Kaori Saito said that the source of issue affecting a number of accounts was limited to third party app and its permissions were removed immediately. Twitter Counter, a marketing tool that allows people and companies to track their popularity on Twitter, said it’s now blocking people from postings through its system while it studies the issue. The company says it has more than 2 million users and tracks more than 350 million Twitter accounts.
“Our app has been used. It’s pending further investigation,” said Twitter Counter Chief Executive Officer Omer Ginor. “We are aware of the situation and have started an investigation into the matter.” Twitter Counter reported an attack in November in which accounts from Sony Corp., Viacom Inc., Microsoft Corp. and others were compromised and posting spam messages. Twitter Counter apologized and said it had fixed the problem.
We're aware that our service was hacked and have started an investigation into the matter.We've already taken measures to contain such abuse— TheCounter (@thecounter) March 15, 2017
“We are aware of an issue affecting a number of account holders this morning,” said Twitter Inc. company spokeswoman Kaori Saito. “We quickly located the source which was limited to a third party app. We removed its permissions immediately. No additional accounts are impacted.”
Ginor said the company had reached “95 percent certainty” that it had fixed the problem after being hacked in November. The company couldn’t be sure a hacker was “still lurking in the shadows, just waiting for the opportunity.”
As Bloomberg notes, the incidents show the indirect ways hackers can take over a company’s Twitter feed. Twitter Counter is one of many companies that plug into Twitter to provide marketing and analytics tools for people, businesses and other groups. Companies including Time Inc., Netflix Inc., Chevron Corp. and YouTube use Twitter Counter, according to its website.