The news agency Associated Press (AP) has confirmed a group hacked its Twitter account, sending out a tweet that the US president had been injured in an explosion. The false tweet sent markets reeling.
The AP suspended its Twitter account on Tuesday, following a hoax tweet sent out via its handle. An online group had hacked @AP and published the "bogus" news, the agency's spokespeople told reporters within minutes of the incident.
Around 1 p.m. (1700 GMT) the following false claim appeared on AP's Twitter page, which has nearly two million followers: "Breaking: Two explosions in the White House and the president is injured."
The false message did not appear on the agency's news wire, which media outlets around the world use as source information for reporting.
The Dow Jones dropped 0.9 percent in immediate reaction to the fake news and then recovered almost as quickly. Within minutes, the Associated Press announced the hacking incident in an official statement over another account, dispelling fears on the market.
White House spokesperson Jay Carney also said that no explosions had occurred at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "The president is fine," said Carney at the daily press conference.
An online group which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - Syrian Electronic Army - claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack.
"@AP get owned by Syrian Electronic Army," it tweeted.
An AP reporter said the perpetrator could have sent out an email containing malicious software designed to steal personal information, such as passwords, from recipients' computers.
"The AP hack came less than an hour after some of us received an impressively disguised phishing email," the news agency's reporter Mike Baker said in a tweet.
The group believed to be behind Tuesday's attack has claimed responsibility for hijacking other widely-followed official accounts in the past, including those of the BBC and US broadcasters CBS and NPR. Most recently, it hacked both FIFA's and FIFA President Sepp Blatter's feeds.
kms/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)