COMPANY EMPLOYEES noticed the altered content and took down the entire USAToday.com site, Anderson said. Everything was back to normal by 2 a.m. ET.
“This is the first time this has happened,” Anderson said, noting USAToday.com has been in operation since 1995.
He said seven separate pages on USAToday.com were hacked.
Other headlines on the hacked home page, viewed by an MSNBC.com editor, included: “Oops says the Pope/Christianity a Sham!” and “Deadly viruses online/Easy to get plans, materials via Internet.” An Israeli flag was also inserted atop the home page, but it was not immediately clear that the attack was politically motivated. Anderson said no one had claimed responsibility, and that the headlines on the hacked site suggested the attack was “very prankish.”
There was no immediate indication how the attackers managed to gain control of the site, he said.
“We are looking into various security measures,” Anderson said.
High-profile news sites are a frequent target of hackers. Access to CNN.com was cut off four years ago as part of a series of Web site attacks that bumped Yahoo.com, Amazon.com, and other top Web sites offline. Just a few months ago, MSNBC.com was knocked offline by a denial of service attack.
But altering news content has been rare, and raises some disconcerting possibilities. A hacker named Adrian Lamo was able to slightly change a wire service news story on Yahoo.com last September, attributing false quotes to President Bush. Lamo said he did it to show how terrorists could create confusion by attacking news services.
And five years ago, protesters supporting popular convicted hacker Kevin Mitnik altered content on the New York Times home page, adding comments that supported Mitnik and criticized a Times reporter. http://www.msnbc.com/news/779372.asp#BODY