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Updated at 8:30 a.m. Pacific with a statement from Microsoft
Visitors to Skype’s social media services may have seen some surprising messages yesterday about the civil war in Syria.
“Hacked by Syrian Electronic Army.. Stop Spying!” [sic] read one. “Don’t use Microsoft emails (hotmail,outlook), They are monitoring your accounts and selling the data to the governments,” [sic] said another. Microsoft’s Twitter account retweeted that latter message more than 8,000 times yesterday during the two hours its accounts were compromised.
The Syrian Electronic Army, a group of hackers who support President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, broke into Skype’s Twitter, Facebook, and blog through what appear to be classic phishing attacks. The Skype service itself was unaffected, and Microsoft assures users that their information is safe.
“We recently became aware of a targeted cyberattack that led to access to Skype’s social media properties, but these credentials were quickly reset,” reads a statement provided to VentureBeat by a Microsoft spokesperson. “No user information was compromised.”
The Syrian Electronic Army has previously targeted news organizations it feels are friendly to the rebel forces in Syria. It claimed responsibility for hacking the New York Times and the Washington Post in August.
It’s not entirely clear why the hacker group targeted Microsoft’s Internet calling service, but we suspect it has to do with leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. In July, Snowden revealed that Microsoft had provided encryption workarounds to the NSA and the FBI that enabled the spy agencies to access users’ Skype video calls, Outlook email and web chats, and data stored on SkyDrive, the company’s cloud-based storage service.
Skype is currently under investigation in its home country of Luxembourg for its involvement with the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program. That investigation reportedly began in June following the initial Snowden leaks.
Microsoft was one of the major tech companies that issued an open letter to President Barack Obama and Congress early last month calling for an end to intrusive surveillance tactics. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, and others also participated.