Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden's Death Reverberates in Media and Economy


Social media and other news outlets raced to report the demise of terrorist Osama bin Laden, and the impact was even felt in the stock market and oil prices. As TV newsmen floundered waiting for President Barack Obama to announce bin Laden's death, Twitter reported record tweet volumes. Hackers are expected to take advantage.

The demise of terrorist Osama bin Laden continued to shake up the world on Monday as details spread of a daring raid by U.S. Navy Seals that took out the Al Qaeda leader. There was an early surge in stock prices, and oil initially fell more than three percent, but skepticism about the future of the Middle East soon caused a correction, Reuters reported.

Traditional vs Social Media

The event was also an extravaganza for conventional media as well as emerging social-media communications Relevant Products/Services. TV networks broke into their regularly scheduled programming around 10:40 p.m. Eastern time Sunday night to announce the news after the White House sent out an advisory that President Barack Obama would address the nation. That didn't happen for almost an hour, leaving correspondents such as Geraldo Rivera of Fox and Wolf Blitzer of CNN awkwardly grasping for information, frequently shifting between commentators and file footage of bin Laden while waiting for details.

Meanwhile, the social-media infrastructure Relevant Products/Services, which was in its infancy when the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks occurred, faced perhaps the biggest worldwide news event since then, except perhaps the election of Obama in 2008.

Twitter reported a new record of both average tweets per second and an all-time per-second high during the president's brief speech and the aftermath. "Last night saw the highest sustained rate of tweets ever" at 3,440, the company reported, with a peak of 5,106 around 11 p.m. EDT, when many TV viewers were tuning into the late news.

"Facebook and Twitter are exploding today with comments, reposting of news stories, and a good bit of humor/commentary," Professor Davis Houck of the Florida State University School of Communication told us. "When the story broke [Sunday] night on social media, I'm guessing many quickly sought out more traditional media, notably television, especially given that President Obama would soon be addressing the nation. As this week begins, though, social media is again buzzing with the latest ... news updates and, again, a good bit of humor."

Hackers Take Advantage

Data-security Relevant Products/Services experts immediately braced for a wave of malware they expect will be unleashed either by Al Qaeda sympathizers or by hackers taking advantage of the tremendous interest in the topic and the resulting traffic.

"We don't have any examples yet," wrote Johannes Ulrich on the SANS Technology Institute's Internet Storm Center blog. "As with any large news event like this, we expect a flurry of e-mails, and likely black-hat search engine operations trying to take advantage of the event to distribute malware."

One suspicious example, said Ulrich, of the Bethesda, Md.-based cybersecurity school, is a fake image purporting to show a dead bin Laden with a bloody head wound. (No such image was released.)

"Right now, none of the servers hosting Relevant Products/Services it respond," Ulrich posted. "Some of the sites return SQL errors, indicating that the sites are receiving too much traffic."

Chet Wisniewski of the global Relevant Products/Services cybersecurity firm Sophos said he is "seeing lots of scams on Facebook, poisoned Google Image Search links, etc. No jihadist cyberwar yet."

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