If you happened to be on Twitter in the early hours of the morning here in the U.S., you may have noticed some strange activity: Several major news sites’ accounts, along with accounts of various European political bodies, were hacked ahead of elections in the Netherlands.
Hashtags reading “NaziGermany” and “NaziHolland” in Turkish showed up on verified accounts for Forbes Magazine, Reuters Japan, BBC North America, and German newspaper Die Welt, reports Bloomberg. Twitter accounts for the European Parliament, French politicians Alain Juppé, and Sprint Corp.’s Chief Executive Officer and President Marcelo Claure were also targeted.
The attackers posted content supporting Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has had some strong words for The Netherlands and Germany. Dutch voters are casting their votes today in the country’s parliamentary elections.
According to Bloomberg, the attackers’ Tweets included a swastika and described the hack as a “little Ottoman slap.”
“See you on April 16,” one said, in reference to Turkey’s upcoming referendum to give Erdogan more powers. “What did I write? Learn Turkish.”
“We are aware of an issue affecting a number of account holders this morning,” said a Twitter spokeswoman. “We quickly located the source which was limited to a third party app. We removed its permissions immediately. No additional accounts are impacted.”
A Dutch company called Twitter Counter is now looking into whether the hackers were able to slip in through its marketing tool, which lets users track how popular they are on Twitter. The company is temporarily blocking people from posting through the tool.
“Our app has been used. It’s pending further investigation,” said Twitter Counter CEO Omer Ginor. “We are aware of the situation and have started an investigation into the matter.”
If Twitter Counter sounds familiar in this context, that’s because this isn’t the company’s first time at the hacking rodeo: Bloomberg notes that the startup reported an attack in November that compromised accounts for Sony, Viacom, Microsoft, and others, resulting in spam messages posted on their pages. Twitter Count said at the time it had plugged the hole that caused that attack.
A few other high-profile Twitter accounts were also hacked last year in separate instances, including several Marvel-related pages and Netflix’s U.S. feed. Those attacks were believed to have been conducted by the same group.