Hundreds of Twitter accounts belonging to prominent celebrities, companies and institutions were hacked on Tuesday night in what appears to be a cyber attack by a group backing pro-Turkish President Recep Erdoğan.
A number of the hacked Twitter accounts, including those of Duke University; Forbes; Nike Spain; Justin Bieber (Japanese account); and Amnesty International tweeted a swastika and a reference to April 16, when a referendum will be held in Turkey seeking to give more powers to President Erdogan.
The tweets, which are in Turkish, also mention the words “Nazi Germany” and “Nazi Holland”, references to President Erdogan’s recent remarks that the Dutch authorities are acting like “Nazis” after the country expelled a Turkish minister who was hosting a campaign in the city of Rotterdam, as Heat Street has previously reported.
Most hacked accounts seem to have taken back control from hackers but some, including the one held by Forbes, is still in the process of being fully restored.
Some suggested that a third-party analytics app called Twitter Counter allowed hackers to temporarily gain control of multiple accounts.
A spokesman for Twitter Counter told CNBC news that the company is aware of the situation and is investigating.
“Before any definite findings, we’ve already taken measures to contain such abuse of our users’ accounts, assuming it is indeed done using our system – both blocking all ability to post tweets using our system and changing our Twitter app key,” the spokesman said.
“One thing is important to note – we do not store users’ Twitter account credentials (passwords) nor credit card information. The abuse risk is limited to posting or following on Twitter and as I’ve mentioned – the first part is already contained.”
It remains unclear who exactly was behind the cyber attack on Twitter, whether the Turkish hackers were acting on behalf of the Turkish state, or whether they were independent Erdogan supporters.