An Iranian group operating under the name the Iranian Cyber Army hacked the Websites of the Voice of America and several of its affiliates to display a banner that said, "We have proven that we can."
The attack was first noticed on Twitter by @PiratesWeek on Feb. 21 and confirmed by Voice of America a day later. The group temporarily defaced the sites with an image of an Iranian flag, an AK-47 assault weapon and a message written in broken English for United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"Mrs. Clinton, Do you want to hear the voice of the oppressed nations? The Islamic nations would no more be tricked by the U.S., and we want you to stop interfering in the Islamic countries," the attackers wrote.
The hackers did not penetrate any of the computer networks, but compromised an outside system that contained the domain name server, according to VOA executives. With the DNS (Domain Name System) server under their control, the hackers were able to redirect all traffic away from VOA's actual pages to the hackers' page, the news agency said.
"VOANews.com's primary domain, along with numerous related domains registered with Network Solutions, were hacked by an unknown party," said Rebecca McMenamin, director of the office of new media within the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which operates the VOA.
It's not clear exactly what happened. Network Solutions said the attack did not breach its systems or services, and no data was lost. The hackers controlled the DNS for about eight hours before the agency resumed control. The company declined to provide details on how the DNS was changed.
According to PBS.org's Tehran Bureau, the Cyber Army appears to have attacked 94 other VOA affiliate sites in addition to the main site. The hackers' message appeared on VOA's English, Somali, Albanian, Persian, Azeri, Dari, Pashtun and Urdu language sites. While this was the group's first major attack in 2011, the Cyber Army had previously hacked Twitter and Chinese search engine Baidu.
Iran's state-run IRNA news agency implied the Cyber Army was carried out by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards, and Iran's semi-official state news agency, Fars, praised the attack, saying that the Voice of America was the "media arm of the U.S. spy agencies" and that it was in retaliation for VOA's "false reports" on the "spread and progress of seditious moves in Iran."
Following the wave of demonstrations that have rocked the Middle East and North Africa in recent weeks, Iranian government officials have said the United States needed to stop "interfering" in the region, according to the Tehran Bureau. The Iranian government has clamped down internally in recent weeks, but there have still been a number of anti-government demonstrations in Tehran and other parts of the country within the past few days.
In a turnabout, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has condemned the killings of protesters in Libya, calling the government's actions there "unimaginable."
The Voice of America operates a global network of news and information outlets that reflect official U.S. foreign policy. The Broadcasting Board of Governors, a federal agency, controls VOA.