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Reuters website hacked in Syrian cyberwar attack

In the latest cyberattack to strike a news organisation covering Syria's civil war, a Reuters website was hacked on Friday and used to disseminate fake stories about the country's rebel movement.

“ was a target of a hack on Friday,” Thomson Reuters said in a statement. “Our blogging platform was compromised and fabricated blog posts were falsely attributed to several Reuters journalists.”

The blogging platform was taken offline while the company worked to address the problem, although cached versions of bogus posts were still available online. One of the false posts purported to be an interview with Riad al-Asaad, head of the Free Syrian Army. “Reuters did not carry out such an interview and the posting has been deleted,” Reuters said.

In another seemingly related incident, a blog posted under the name of a Reuters columnist based in Jordan claimed Syrian rebels had “acquired chemical weapons from Libya” including “mustard gas and sarin [sic]” and reported that members of the Free Syrian Army had been documented unpacking gas masks in the city of Aleppo. The posting was available only briefly before being taken down by Reuters.

There was no immediate indication as to who was behind the cyberattack. Both stories appeared aimed at scoring propaganda points against the rebels. Opponents and supporters of Syria’s government have routinely engaged in acts of electronic sabotage, and media organisations seen by Assad loyalists as sympathetic to the rebel cause have suffered repeated attacks. ■