The News Corp. phone-hacking scandal took another dramatic twist Monday when the publishing empire got a taste of its own medicine: Hackers seized control of the website of The Sun, the sister publication of the recently shuttered News of the World.
The website briefly displayed a fake news story announcing that News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch had been found dead. Soon after, the site began redirecting to the @LulzSec Twitter feed of Lulz Security, a hacker collective that has breached the websites of Sony, PBS and the U.S. Senate, among others. Late last month, the group said it was disbanding, but it seems to have been lured out of retirement for the operation it dubbed #MurdochMeltdownMonday.
"We have joy we have fun, we have messed up Murdoch's Sun," LulzSec proclaimed on its Twitter feed. It also claimed to have "wrecked" Murdoch's News International website and altered one of the news statements posted there.
News International's site was offline Monday night because of the high traffic surge. Other sites in company's network, including the Times of London's website, also went down.
The carnage could get worse: LulzSec and Anonymous, an anarchic hacker group LulzSec often teams with, said they had also harvested e-mail addresses, password and phone numbers for some of News International and The Sun's top editors and executives. Twitter accounts associated with Anonymous blasted out a steady stream of what they claimed were the phone numbers and passwords.
News Corp. representatives did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The hacking comes amid the widening scandal hitting Murdoch's media empire. Late Monday, credit agency Standard & Poor's said it was placing News Corp.'s "BBB+" corporate credit rating on "CreditWatch Negative," meaning S&P may downgrade News Corp's credit within the next 90 days.
On Sunday, Rebekah Brooks, a former top News Corp. (NWSA, Fortune 500) executive, was arrested in connection with British police investigations into phone hacking and police bribery. She was released around midnight.
On Friday, Brooks resigned as chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's News International, which published the News of the World and is part of News Corp.
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Brooks is the tenth person to be arrested in connection with the phone-hacking probe, police said Sunday. The scandal has rocked Britain for the past two weeks, and jumped the pond on Friday with the resignation of Les Hinton, the chief executive of Dow Jones, another of Murdoch's media holdings.
In addition to Dow Jones, News Corp. owns outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and the New York Post.
The office of UK prime minister David Cameron confirmed Monday that Cameron was cutting short a trip to Africa and would return to the U.K. following the resignation of two top London police officials. It is alleged that police accepted payments from journalists in exchange for confidential information. Cameron said Monday that he will request a special session of Parliament on Wednesday to address the scandal.
The FBI is now also getting involved, considering a probe into the news organization amid allegations that Sept. 11 survivors, victims and their families had their voicemails hacked as well.