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Obama calls for tighter cyber security after U.S. Central Command Twitter hack

Unknown hackers claiming to be Islamic State (ISIS) militant supporters took over the U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts briefly on January 12. The two websites moved quickly to suspend the compromised accounts and prevent further posts. Meanwhile, the U.S. government confirmed the hacks, but stated that no sensitive information was leaked.

The White House is currently monitoring the hack and seeking out those responsible. Two U.S. defense officials told Reuters the attack is an embarrassment, but not a threat to the country or its service members.

Updated on 01-13-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added President Barack Obama’s response to the hack.

“We can confirm that the CENTCOM Twitter and YouTube accounts were compromised earlier today. We are taking appropriate measures to address the matter,” Central Command said in a statement.

Related: The full extent of the Sony hack

President Barack Obama was giving a speech on the importance of cyber security and data protection around the same time the Cyber Caliphate hacked Central Command’s accounts. The next day, Obama cited the recent hack as evidence that the U.S. needs to tighten its cyber security.

“With the Sony attack that took place, with the Twitter account that was hacked by Islamist jihadist sympathizers yesterday, it just goes to show how much more work we need to do — both public and private sector — to strengthen our cybersecurity,” Obama said.

The hackers, called the Cyber Caliphate, issued a statement on Pastebin boasting of the attack. Alongside various threats and messages of support for ISIS, the hackers posted pictures and screenshots of what they claim is sensitive data on the U.S. military, its plans, and service members. The BBC confirmed that at least one of the photos posted by the hackers on Twitter came straight from the Pentagon’s public website. However, the origin of the rest of the information, including lists of top-ranked U.S. generals, military scenarios, as well as data on soldiers and their families, has yet to be discovered.

Twitter quickly shut down the account and removed the offending tweets, which continue to circulate via social media and various news articles. YouTube also suspended Central Command’s account, after the hackers posted two videos, entitled Flames of War ISIS Video and O Soldiers of Truth Go Forth.