Hackers affiliated with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad swiftly claimed responsibility for knocking the U.S. Army’s website offline Monday afternoon.
The Syrian Electronic Army took credit for the hack of Army.mil on Twitter, posting a screenshot of an image of the site with the pop-up message reading: “Your commanders admit they are training the people they have sent you to die fighting.”
In a statement, the Pentagon acknowledged an intrusion had occured, though it did not confirm the source.
“Today an element of the Army.mil service provider’s content was compromised,” Army Brig. Gen. Malcolm Frost said. “After this came to our attention, the Army took appropriate preventive measures to ensure there was no breach of Army data by taking down the website temporarily.”
Army.mil is inaccessible. A cached version of the site prompts a pop-up that proclaims “Hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army.” Upon closing that window, another appears: “Stop training the terrorists!” followed by “Your government is corrupt don’t listen to it!”
The Facebook account for Fort Bragg in North Carolina told its followers to “avoid using www.army.mil for the time being.” It added that the site had was reportedly down due to the actions of SEA.
The pro-Assad hacking has successfully penetrated the cyber defenses of a wide-ranging swath of media websites in recent months, including CNBC, Forbes and the Chicago Tribune. Last month SEA briefly took down The Washington Post‘s mobile site.
The hacking group prompted a brief panic at the stock market in 2013 when it hacked the Associated Press Twitter account and tweeted falsely that the White House was under attack.
The military has been subject to cybervandalism before, but the Monday breach may be the first to directly affect one of its websites. In January, hackers claiming to support the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria hijacked U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts, but that breach did not implicate the military’s actual networks. A Pentagon spokeswoman at the time said that no classified information had been compromised.
Monday’s apparent hack comes just hours after President Obama said at a press conference in Germany that hacks are going to continue to grow more debilitating until the government does more to shore up the nation’s cyber defenses. Speaking about the massive theft of the personal information of four million former and current federal employees from the Office of Personnel Management announced last week, Obama urged Congress to quickly pass cybersecurity legislation that his administration has requested.
“Both state and nonstate actors are sending everything they’ve got at trying to breach these systems,” the president said.
It was not immediately clear whether the defacing of the Army website meant that any government data was potentially at risk.
This story is breaking and will be updated.