In the latest of a string of cyberattacks tied to Middle East strife, a pro-Palestinian group believed to be based in Turkey hacked the web site of the London Jewish Chronicle during the weekend. Visitors to the site on Sunday were greeted with a large Palestinian flag accompanied by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic messages from a group calling itself Palestinian Mujaheeds.
"Aren't you ashamed of giving tolerance to Jewish [sic] who is the main actor of wars with being of children killers?" the message read in part. "Aren't you ashamed of giving support to vampire who doesn't care any human life? Aren't you ashamed of showing respect to Jewish who makes revenge, hatred and rivality [sic] feelings between the people?"
The group was apparently protesting the blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces, which pulled out of that area in 2005.
The newspaper's staff was quickly alerted to the security breach and took it offline promptly, the Chronicle reported. The site was down about 18 hours while the breach was investigated.
"By 4.40 p.m., a mere 20 minutes after the site was breached, senior executives had received dozens of text messages and phone calls alerting them; from synagogues, the CST, Jewish organizations, and individuals," said the paper, which also said police were investigating. CST, or Community Security Trust, is an organization that works with local and international authorities to safeguard the Jewish community in the United Kingdom.
The Chronicle quoted its information-technology staff as saying there was no penetration of the paper's servers. "The version of the site that was running at the time was addressing a virtual file system only. It was similar to viewing a cached version of a page. It was temporary until rebooted. The file system on the server was not affected at all. No one had managed to write anything onto the actual site itself," the paper said.
Not the First Time
The global Internet security software firm Sophos said the incident was part of a string of pro-Palestinian cybercrime, noting that in 2001 a so-called Injustice worm bombarded the e-mail of Israeli parliament members, and last year a U.S. Army web site was defaced with an image of a Palestinian protester in front of an Israeli tank.
Several Jewish and Israel-linked organizations in the United States have also reported being hacked by pro-Palestinian groups.
"The Turkish hackers are well known to law-enforcement agencies and have hacked Jewish sites," said David Pollock, associate executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. "They masquerade as 'good guy' security consultants. We have advised groups to carefully screen their web hosts. We recommend that they use hosts with staff focused full-time on security."
Pollock, who serves as a Jewish community liaison to law enforcement and organizes security training sessions for Jewish institutions, said there was no indication the Mujaheeds group was tied to any violent group.
"What we've seen is anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, but we haven't seen any links to any hard-core terrorist group," said Pollock. He noted that grants distributed by the Department of Homeland Security for security upgrades at institutions deemed to be "soft targets" now include cybersecurity, to prevent access to databases that could be used for terror attacks.
Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant for U.K.-based Sophos, said it's unlikely police would make much headway in tracking down the Mujaheed culprits.
"Chances are that they are based in another country -- Turkey would seem to be in the frame -- which automatically makes it more complicated and expensive for the authorities to investigate," Cluley said.
"As there doesn't appear to have been any financial damage done, and was more akin to graffiti, I doubt there will be much willingness to put much resource into investigating the attack in greater detail," he said. "Which is a shame, because it was clearly a criminal act."