A Hacker purporting to be an ISIS sympathizer breached the social accounts of a U.S. Marine’s wife Tuesday, threatening her then using her Twitter feed to threaten at least four other military spouses and the Obama family, two of the spouses confirmed to NBC News.
The FBI is investigating the breach and the online threats, said Liz Snell, a Marine wife, whose Twitter and Facebook accounts were hacked. Snell’s husband was deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan five times.
The FBI pulled down Snell’s Twitter account on Tuesday morning, she said, and Snell removed her compromised Facebook profile. NBC News contacted the FBI, seeking confirmation that the agency is investigating the matter. The agency has not yet responded to that query.
In a separate tweet from Snell’s account to the Obamas, the hacker claimed the President and his family are being watched and mentioned Valentine’s Day, according to screen shots obtained by NBC News.
Snell as well as at least three of the threatened spouses all were quoted in a Jan. 14 CNN.com article that explored how military families were rethinking their online lives following the Jan. 12 hacking of social media accounts at the U.S. military’s Central Command.
That article seems to be the lone common thread among the hacking victims, Snell said.
In that breach, CENTCOM’s Twitter and YouTube accounts were compromised and hackers posted pro-ISIS messages and images similar to those tweeted by a hacker Tuesday. In January, the unknown hacker caused the CENTCOM accounts to be taken down for hours.
“Ultimately, my feeling is that I don’t want anyone [who follows her on social media] to feel that they are unsafe,” Snell told NBC News. “I feel some level of responsibility … This does make me nervous.”
Snell said she was in touch Tuesday with other named spouses to check on their safety. She operates the non-profit website Military Spouses of Strength, a hub for military-family members grappling with mental-health issues in the wake of two long wars.
The hacker also sent Facebook messages to Snell and to at least one other military spouse, claiming to know details about their lives, and the lives of their husbands and children. The hacker also claimed to be in close proximity to both Snell and the other spouse.
“It was a ‘We know where you are’ kind of thing,” Snell said. “We [my family] are taking precautions just to ensure safety measures are in place.”
One of the five military spouses threatened Tuesday is Ashley Broadway-Mack. Her spouse is an Army officer. She was also quoted in the CNN.com story about the impact the CENTCOM breach had on military families.
“I’m not going to lie. It’s shocking to actually see your name along with some type of threat,” Broadway-Mack told NBC News. “This has me a little on edge.”
Broadway-Mack immediately notified the members of her spouse’s chain of command to alert them to the breach, she said.
“In the same breath, if I were to shut down my Twitter, shut down my Facebook, to me, they [the hacker] won,” she said. “I refuse to do that. Will I put up extra protection on my social media? Yes. I have.
“Whether this is ISIS directly or someone posing as ISIS, I don’t know. I trust the FBI and any other agencies that may be working on these types of threats. I trust them. And I refuse to live my life in fear.”
Amy Bushatz, a third military spouse who received online threats from the same breach, blogged about the experience Tuesday. Her husband is an Army officer who deployed to Afghanistan.
“Military spouses are used to being brave. We’re used to standing up for ourselves. We are married to somebody who is living, often, in a very scary situation – deployed with their life is in imminent danger. That’s unnerving. We’re used to those feelings. We’re not people who are easily bullied by terrorists,” Bushatz told NBC News.
Being contacted directly by a purported ISIS sympathizer, Bushatz said, “is a little frightening.”
“That being said, there is a difference between being afraid and living in fear. The question is, really, what are you going to do with that [feeling]?”
“There’s no reason to be running around town with a sticker on your car saying that you’re an Army wife,” she said. “That does not mean you have to be living in fear, though. This is not a reason to delete your Facebook account,” Bushatz said.
“It might be a reason to take that loud-and-proud picture of your husband in uniform off of a place where everybody and their terrorist friend can see it. But it’s not a reason to go into hiding.