Was Al-Bilad Newspaper Account Actually Hacked to Announce its Recovery?

2020-09-24 - 6:15 م

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): On Sunday (September 13, 2020), Al-Bilad newspaper, owned by Prime Minister's son Ali bin Khalifa, said that the limited edition newspaper managed to recover its Twitter account, four weeks after being hacked.

The story began on August 18, 2020 when the newspaper's account published a statement attributing it to the Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al-Bukhari, commenting on the International Court of Justice decision on the assassination of President Rafic Hariri.

"The International Court of Justice decision on the assassination of President Rafic Hariri is a golden opportunity to exclude Hezbollah from the political scene in Lebanon," reported Al-Bilad on its Twitter account.

Like other Bahraini, Saudi and Emirati newspapers, Al-Bilad newspaper has reported false news and statements in its campaigns against Hezbollah and Iran for many years, but it has stood at certain limits. Saudi Arabia, more than any other Gulf state with significant interests and influence in Lebanon, has been cautious in dealing with Hezbollah and its allies, despite the sharp positions Saudi officials were launching from Riyadh, its embassy did not turn (intentionally) into a platform for an official attack on Hezbollah because of the nature of the country and the relations that govern the parties there.

However, Al-Bilad newspaper didn't take into consideration this sensitivity, which led to the anger of the Saudi ambassador, who issued a strongly worded statement threatening to sue the newspaper.

Al-Bilad newspaper was surprised by the reaction and did not know what could be done at the time, so it stopped the activity of its Twitter account, and sent a signed message from Editor-in-Chief Moanes Al-Mardi to the ambassador, claiming that its account was hacked by unknown individuals, and published an official piece of news on its Instagram account in this regard.

After we published the statement of the Saudi Embassy, the newspaper was quick to publish a piece of news on its website stating that its account is still hacked and is not under its control.

But why do we question the possibility of the newspaper's Twitter account being hacked? Why don't we just believe their claim?

First of all, Al-Bilad is not a regionally-influential media outlet, and it is not considered one of the media platforms on which Saudi Arabia and the UAE rely in their fight against Iran's axis. No Bahraini media can be considered to have even a little impact.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have satellite channels such as Al-Arabiya, Al-Hadath, Sky News Arabic and even the US funded Al-Hurra. They also own newspapers such as Asharq Al-Awsat and Al-Hayat and Arab versions of foreign media such as CNN Arabia and the Independent Arabic. So, is it possible for someone to hack a newspaper like Al-Bilad, and leave all these important and influential media outlets?

Second: Why did the hacker only post a tweet attributed to the Saudi ambassador? So after the hacker was revealed, he stopped tweeting from the account and did not publish any other material or send any political messages like hackers usually do?!

Al- Bilad newspaper had the same questions as well, and was facing a real challenge in trying to promote its hacking story. The account, which suddenly stopped on August 18, 2020 after the tweet about the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, retweeted on November 9 news about Palestine, some from Al-Jazeera and others from the Turkish News Agency, with a hashtag showing the source of the alleged hack such as hashtag "Emirates Land of the Jews" in an attempt to say that the source of the hack is Doha and the Muslim Brotherhood.

After posting a number of these tweets, the account was suspended again, and the newspaper published on its official website that the account was still hacked, but four days after the incident (September 13) it announced that it was able to recover it, 27 days after the alleged hack.

The last thing that led us not to believe the story of Al-Bilad newspaper, which seems not to have even fooled the Saudi ambassador in Lebanon, is that the newspaper's account is verified and according to correspondence with the American company, we found that it recovers the hacked accounts (especially if they are verified and belong to an official party) in less than 72 hours, and that all the newspaper needed was to contact Twitter from the email through which the account has been verified. In order to speed up the recovery process, it is preferable to have the email accompanied by a message officially stamped from the company's account.

What happened with Al-Bilad newspaper is a lesson to the rest of the yellow newspapers in the country, yes you can practice your incitement and lies as you like, but don't dare speak about your masters and funders, because this will lead you to a maze that you will not know how to get out of.

Arabic Version