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Skype Hacked in Name of Pro-Assad Syrian Activists

IMAGE: A tweet on Skype's Twitter page

A hashtag used by the hackers indicated the involvement of the Syrian Electronic Army. Twitter.com

The website and social media accounts of the voice-over-Internet calling service Skype apparently were hacked Wednesday and briefly published messages accusing Skype's owner, Microsoft Corp., of spying for "the governments."

Skype's Twitter and Facebook pages and a page on the company's official blog all carried messages urging people to avoid Microsoft email services because "they are monitoring your accounts and selling the data to the governments":

IMAGE: Skype's official blog
A page on Skype's official blog, since removed, accused its owner, Microsoft Corp., of government spying. NBC News

By 5 p.m. ET, the blog and Facebook pages had been taken down, but the messages remained on Skype's Twitter page:

IMAGE: Skype Twitter page on Jan. 1, 2014
A page on Skype's official blog, since removed, accused its owner, Microsoft Corp., of government spying. NBC News

One of the Twitter messages carried the hashtag #SEA, which is used by the Syrian Electronic Army, a collective of online activists that supports Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Neither Microsoft nor media representatives for the company answered calls for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Why the Syrian Electronic Army would have attacked Skype remains a puzzle, as previous hacking campaigns in its name have targeted news organizations it considers friendly to rebel forces fighting to overthrow Assad.

In August, the collective claimed credit for hacking The New York Times' website, and in October it allegedly struck again, hacking  the international news site GlobalPost.

Related: Syrian Electronic Army seen as 'nuisance,' not a serious cyberthreat

But the references to "monitoring your accounts and selling the data to the governments" could refer to disclosures in July by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden that Microsoft had provided the NSA and the FBI with encryption workarounds to gain access to Skype video calls, Outlook Web chats and email, and information stored on Microsoft's cloud-based SkyDrive.

Early last month, Microsoft joined Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo and AOL in issuing an open letter urging President Barack Obama and Congress to reform "the apparent wholesale collection of data, in secret and without independent oversight, by many governments around the world."