Hundreds of Twitter accounts are victims of swastika attacks

Significant numbers of Twitter accounts are being attacked in a hack connected to the ongoing political dispute between Turkey and the Netherlands.

Accounts belonging to major companies and organizations are being included in the targets, including those of Forbes and Duke University. Celebrities are also among the victims.

Turkey and the Netherlands have been involved in escalating political tensions, following Dutch reluctance to allow a Turkish political rally to take place within the Netherlands.

Turkey is to hold a referendum on extending the powers of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and attempts to campaign among ex-pat Turks in European countries has been met with resistance by European Union states.

President Erdoğan is seeking to extend his powers in a referendum. Source: Wikimedia Commons
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Turkey and its President have responded with highly volatile language, which has included comparing the Dutch and the Germans to ‘Nazis’.

This theme is involved in the huge Twitter attack. Images of swastikas are being sent to large numbers of accounts via the third party app Twitter Counter.

Twitter Counter was unintentionally involved in an attack last November, when hundreds of accounts were caused to push a spam message. Playstation and The New Yorker were among those targeted at that time.

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Celebrities in various fields have been targeted

The new hack targets accounts in order to push the hashtag #NaziHollanda, and the tweets include nationalist Turkish text and images of the Turkish flag. There’s also a linked YouTube video designed to promote Mr Erdoğan, which has no shortage of classic propagandist fervor.

The tweet is exactly the same in all cases, and mentions the referendum date of April 16.

The hashtag #Nazialmanya was also part of the text, as was a reference to an #OTTOMAN SLAP in capital letters.

The hackers appear to being going for quantity, as well as high-profile figures and organizations, with well-known accounts being attacked at the same time as significant numbers of accounts belonging to regular Twitter users.

Forbes’ Twitter account during the attack. Source: Twitter

Among the celebrities who unwittingly had their accounts coerced into sending the antagonistic tweets were actress Sarah Shahi and singer Justin Bieber, as well as, legendary tennis player Boris Becker.

The Forbes account had its banner changed to be a Turkish flag. BBC North America and Amnesty International were also affected.

Forbes’ Twitter header for a brief time. Source: Twitter/The Guardian

Reports suggest that the offending tweets have been removed from many accounts.  All of those involved were thought to have been using Twitter Counter, a third-party analytics app based in Amsterdam, which was compromised.

Having compromised the app, the hackers could then send their desired tweets from any account that was using Twitter Counter.

BBC North America later tweeted to say: “Hi everyone – we temporarily lost control of this account, but normal service has resumed. Thanks.”

Securing a Twitter account

Twitter, of course, has a page dedicated to actions that users should take if their account has been hacked.

Victims are directed to first request a password reset, and then to contact support if they require further assistance, choosing ‘Hacked account’ from the list of subject options.

Twitter itself was not compromised during the recent attack, but the taking over of a third-party app allowed hackers to briefly control any account using that app.

Therefore, anyone concerned is also being advised to review what apps they use on Twitter in order to make their account more secure.

Twitter’s applications page allows users to see a reminder of what apps they are using, after which they can decide to disable some if they deem it necessary. Revoking apps that are no longer in use may be advisable, as is the addition of two-step verification.

Meanwhile, the war of words between Turkey and European Union countries, particularly the Netherlands, shows no sign of letting up.

Shortly after it Tweeted to say its account was back under control, BBC North America reported that the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, has said Turkey is “completely detached from reality” in referring to the Dutch as “fascists”.

Here’s a translation of the text delivered during the massive attack:

“卐 #NaziGermany?#NaziNetherlands, a little?#OTTOMAN SLAP for you, see you on

#April16th.”

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