U.S. Central Command said it is viewing Monday’s hack on the military agency’s Twitter and YouTube pages “purely as a case of cybervandalism.”
The official Twitter account for U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, appeared to have been hacked by supporters of the Islamic State militants (also known as ISIS or ISIL) when, starting at around 12:30 p.m. EST, CENTCOM’s Twitter profile picture and cover photo were changed to a black background displaying the words “CyberCaliphate” and “i love you isis” in white letters.
In a statement released Monday evening, CENTCOM acknowledged that both its Twitter and YouTube accounts had been “compromised,” but emphasized that these sites “reside on commercial, non-Defense Department servers," so “CENTCOM’s operational military networks were not compromised and there was no operational impact to U.S. Central Command.”
CENTCOM confirmed that both accounts had been taken offline while the incident was being investigated but added that they would be restored “as quickly as possible.”
“In the meantime, our initial assessment is that no classified information was posted and that none of the information posted came from CENTCOM’s server or social media sites,” the statement continued. “Additionally, we are notifying appropriate DoD and law enforcement authorities about the potential release of personally identifiable information and will take appropriate steps to ensure any individuals potentially affected are notified as quickly as possible.”
The hackers posted a series of menacing tweets with messages like “AMERICAN SOLDIERS, WE ARE COMING, WATCH YOUR BACK” and “You’ll see no mercy infidels. ISIS is already here, we are in your PCs, in each military base. With Allah’s permission we are in CENTCOM now. We won’t stop! We know everything about your wives and children. U.S. Soldiers! We’re watching you!”
The hack took place as President Barack Obama prepared for a speech on the issue of cybersecurity. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest urged reporters to note the “significant difference between what is a large data breach and the hacking of a Twitter account,” but said that the hack “is something that we are obviously looking into and something that we take seriously.”
The tweets include a photo of what looks like uniformed American soldiers at an unidentified Army base, screenshots of spreadsheets with the names and contact information of military personnel, and PowerPoint slideshows with maps of China and North Korea. While some of the documents say “For Official Use Only” in small letters, they are notably free of any classified watermarks or stamps. In fact, U.S. defense officials speaking on the condition of anonymity told Reuters that none of the information in the images posted on the CENTCOM Twitter feed appeared to be classified or pose any sort of security threat.
Twitter did not respond immediately to a request for comment.