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Hackers target Murdoch newspaper Web site

Fake news story about Rupert Murdoch's death and hacking of media company comes out the same day a former Murdoch journalist-turned whistleblower is found dead.

Fake news story that LulzSec created for visitors to The Sun.
Fake news story that LulzSec created for visitors to The Sun. ZDNet

The LulzSec hacker group has turned its sights on Rupert Murdoch's U.K. newspaper The Sun, hacking the site to direct visitors to a fake article claiming the media mogul had died and releasing information on journalists.

The group announced on Twitter that "The Sun's homepage now redirects to the Murdoch death story on the recently-owned New Times website. Can you spell success, gentlemen?"

The New Times site was inaccessible this afternoon, but screenshots captured before it was taken off line show a headline that says "Media Moguls Body Discovered" and a story that said Murdoch had taken a large quantity of palladium, a metal that resembles platinum.

"Officers on the scene report a broken glass, a box of vintage wine, and what seems to be a family album strewn across the floor, containing images from days gone by; some containing handpainted portraits of Murdoch in his early days, donning a top hat and monocle," the fake news article said in an obvious reference to the LulzSec mascot.

Meanwhile, The Sun site later redirected to LulzSec's Twitter feed.

LulzSec also tweeted the name and phone number of a Sun online editor and two others associated with the company and encouraged followers to call them. And a LulzSec associate, Sabu, posted in a tweet what looks like an old e-mail address and password for Rebekah Brooks, former Sun editor and ex-chief executive of News International, which published News of the World before it shut down earlier this month over the allegations. Brooks resigned from News International last week and was arrested over the weekend. She was an editor at News of the World when mobile phone voice mail hacking allegedly occurred.

News International had released a statement earlier in the day, but the page redirected to LulzSec's Twitter feed, at least temporarily before being inaccessible. "So News International released this AMAZING statement on The Sun: http://newsintco.uk/statement_regarding_the_sun.html/ We improved it for them though!" the hackers said in a tweet, followed by: "Oh, we forgot to mention that we sailed over to News International and wrecked them too. Nearing 300,000 followers...full steam ahead!" The News International site was indeed inaccessible this afternoon.

Murdoch's media empire is embroiled in a scandal in which journalists and others working for the now-defunct News of the World allegedly hacked into mobile phone systems to listen to voice mails of news subjects, including celebrities, members of the royal family, murder victims, soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and people who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Related links
News Corp. exec resigns over phone hacking
British tabloid to shutter in wake of phone hacking scandal
Kevin Mitnick shows how easy it is to hack a phone

Spokespeople for News Corp., parent company of The Sun and News International, did not immediately respond to phone messages and e-mails seeking comment.

Earlier today news came out that a former News of the World journalist turned whistleblower had been found dead of unknown causes. The Guardian reported that Sean Hoare, who had been dismissed from News of the World, had been found dead in his home last night.

Hoare had told The New York Times last September that Andy Coulson, an editor at News of the World, had not only known about the phone hacking but had encouraged it. Hoare also had told told The New York Times that the newspaper paid police to help locate people by using location-tracking technology in their mobile phones that communicates with cell phone towers. Coulson, who denied the allegations at the time, resigned from the newspaper after a journalist there and a private investigator hired by the paper were convicted of phone hacking and went on to become the communications director for British Prime Minister David Cameron. Coulson resigned in January amid renewed media coverage of the scandal.

LulzSec boasted about their hack on Murdoch newspaper The Sun in a tweet.
LulzSec boasted about their hack on Murdoch newspaper The Sun in a tweet.

Public outcry has intensified since The Guardian reported two weeks ago that the private investigator who served time in jail for an earlier hacking case involving the News of the World may have interfered with a police investigation of a missing 13-year-old girl by breaking into her cell phone and deleting voice mail messages before she was found dead in 2002. The allegations have widened to include phones belonging to the families of two other child murder victims and a "handful" of the 52 families who lost loved ones in the 2005 London bombings, among others. The News of the World also is accused of bribing police to divulge classified information about Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and other members of the royal family, and of voice mail and bank account of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and medical records of his son, a charge newspaper executives have denied.

News Corp. is considering promoting Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey to replace Murdoch, Bloomberg reported today. Meanwhile, Murdoch, Brooks, and Murdoch's son, James, who is deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., are scheduled to appear before a Parliamentary hearing on Tuesday to answer questions about the matter.

The news of Hoare's death and other News Corp. scandal headlines may have lured LulzSec out of pseudo-retirement. The group had announced it was calling it quits June 25 but has been working with another loosely organized group of activists, Anonymous, on various attacks on corporate and government Web sites under the AntiSec banner. (Those hacking attacks are included in this chart.)

"Thank you for the love tonight," LulzSec tweeted. "I know we quit, but we couldn't sit by with our wine watching this walnut-faced Murdoch clowning around."

Earlier, the hackers tweeted this taunt: "Arrest us. We dare you. We are the unstoppable hacking generation and you are a wasted old sack of shit, Murdoch. ROW ROW FIGHT THE POWER!"

Updated 6:18 p.m. PT with more details and background on the phone hacking scandal and repercussions and late LulzSec tweets, and reports of release of Sun employee data.