Derek Jeter sex change? Facebook investigating MLB hacking

Derek Jeter connects on a two-run single in

Derek Jeter connects on a two-run single in the third inning during a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. (Aug. 1, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

About 6 million Yankee fans received some distressing news via Facebook on Thursday afternoon -- Derek Jeter will be out for the rest of the season, a message on the team's official Facebook page said.

Most people probably figured out it was a joke by reading on: Jeter, the message said, would be sidelined "with sexual reassignment surgery" to transform into "Minnie Mantlez."

The official Facebook accounts of the Yankees, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Miami Marlins, San Diego Padres and other teams were all compromised Thursday afternoon when a hacker gained access to their official Facebook accounts and began sending out joke messages.

A message from the Chicago White Sox said the team's players would vote for Mitt Romney for president; a message from the Cubs had some harsh words for actor Bill Murray, and a post on the Marlins' account informed fans that it was "Free Pitbull Night at Marlins Park."

"The first 10,000 fans ages 18 and under will receive a free rescued fighting pitbull courtesy of the Dade County Animal Rescue League," the fake post read.

The first posts went up at 3:52 p.m., according to the sports site Deadspin.com, which has screen shots of the joke messages. They lasted for a few minutes, until the social media team at Major League Baseball pulled the plug, changed the passwords on the accounts and deleted the cybervandalism.

MLB released a statement Thursday saying "for a brief moment today, a few MLB Club Facebook accounts were hacked and inappropriate material was briefly on display." The league also said it is working with Facebook and legal authorities to determine what happened.

Facebook also issued a statement Thursday evening.

"Recently, several pages made unauthorized posts as a result of actions from a single rogue administrator of these pages," the statement said. "Our team responded quickly and worked with our partners to eliminate the spam caused by this attack. This was an unique, isolated incident, and we are always working to improve our systems to better protect our users and their data."

It's unlikely that Thursday's messages will do any long-term damage to the impacted baseball franchises, said Roy Morejon, a Charlotte, N.C.-based social media consultant.

"I think they'll understand," Morejon said of fans. "It was more than one team, and the messages were sophomoric across the board."

But the episode highlights the potential security and brand risks that are possible if an account or password falls into the wrong hands, Morejon said, adding that team accounts are managed by MLB and not the individual teams.

"We see it happen all the time now, [and] companies are so vulnerable," he said.

MLB isn't the first high-profile account to get hacked.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had his own account compromised by a hacker who posted the status update: "Let the hacking begin: If facebook needs money, instead of going to the banks, why doesn't Facebook let its users invest in Facebook in a social way?" The post received more than 1,800 "likes" before being removed.

Although some hackers break through security to access private information at sites such as Yahoo! or LinkedIn -- both were hacked this year to make public user account passwords -- many hackers seem to operate under the purpose of just having some wicked fun at the victim's expense.

Justin Bieber's Twitter account was hacked in March by someone tweeting out a lewd hashtag to the pop star's then-nearly 19 million followers. The message was soon deleted, but the hashtag trended throughout the day.

In 2009, the Twitter feed for Fox news was hacked to display the message "Breaking: Bill O Riley is gay." On the same day, a tweet coming from the account of CNN's Rick Sanchez read: "i am high on crack right now might not be coming into work today."

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