FIFA president Sepp Blatter's Twitter account hacked
Hackers also write bogus messages on official Twitter page for 2016 World Cup
A fake Twitter account recently threatened to disclose confidential FIFA documents
Blatter's 15-year tenure as FIFA president has divided opinion
The head of world soccer Sepp Blatter has again been caught up in controversy – but this time it was all the fault of a fake FIFA president.
Blatter’s Twitter account was hacked on Monday as was FIFA’s official account for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
As well saying he was stepping down as FIFA president, the bogus tweets referred to Blatter and Qatar’s winning 2022 World Cup bid.
“Some FIFA accounts, including @SeppBlatter and @fifaworldcup, have been hacked,” said FIFA in a statement.
A group calling themselves the Syrian Electronic Army – said to be supportive of the country’s leader Bashar Al-Assad – claimed responsibility for hacking the accounts.
“This sort of attack is about getting a point across,” Sian John, security strategist at software and security firm Symantec, told CNN.
“Hacking comes back to manipulation. Some groups do it to gain money and some of them to do it to get a point across. There are different motivating factors.”
Last month, the Syrian Electronic Army hacked into several of British broadcaster the BBC’s accounts.
Prior to the hacking of Blatter, another Twitter account emerged – @Fifnonymous – which threatened to disclose confidential FIFA documents, though it was quickly deleted or suspended.
It is unclear whether the account was genuine or a hoax.
“At no time did an account with this name come up in any discussions with Twitter,” a FIFA spokesman told CNN.
Other high-profile victims of hacking include Burger King and Jeep, whose Twitter accounts were both hijacked in February.
Twitter’s own systems were hacked earlier this year, with attackers gaining access to usernames as well as encrypted and randomized passwords for about 250,000 users.
“As we are online so much more now, I’d expect to see more high-profile attacks,” added John.
“It’s not a reason to panic but a reason to take a step back and think how we should protect ourselves online.
“I spend most of my time trying to encourage companies to make information security a priority. People used to see it as an IT problem – but now they see it as a business problem.
“The challenge for businesses now is how they manage the impact on their brand if they were to have an attack.”
Blatter may have been targeted because he divides opinion, regularly attracting controversy over his leadership but also helping promote soccer across the globe.
A series of corruption scandals within FIFA, his botched re-election campaign – where his only opponent was barred from standing after another corruption scandal – and the failure of England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup to attract any interest in FIFA’s corridors of power (despite having the best technical report) led to an outpouring of criticism of Blatter.
However, his dedication to grassroots football and the game’s growth in Africa, the Middle East and Asia are widely regarded as positives of his presidency.
When Blatter joined the federation, 146 countries were members. Now, there are 209 member nations, earning Fifa the nickname the “United Nations of Football”.
Despite the embarrassment for FIFA and Blatter, security expert John urged him to continue tweeting.
“Open attacks are most often down to the users themselves,” John explained. “Strong passwords are crucial to prevent hacking.
“I ask friends five questions and if any of the answers they give me are part of their passwords then they have failed the test.
“The questions are spouse’s name, significant birthdays, favorite sporting team, siblings and pet’s name. Many a dog has died and lived on in a password.
“The key is not panicking. There’s no need to stay off social media or the internet – it’s about thinking about the dangers.
“Secure your password, don’t use social media on free public wifi, don’t let people see what you’re typing – and don’t say something on social media which you wouldn’t be prepared to shout out at in a public space.”
A Twitter spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the hacking of the Blatter and FIFA’s accounts.
FIFA president since 1998 , the 77-year-old Blatter has not yet announced whether he will be standing for a fifth term when his current term ends in 2015.
But if he does, he may want to set a new password first.