A hacking collective that goes by the name “Cyber Caliphate” and claims to be affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, IS) terrorist group has hacked two news organizations in the United States–one in Maryland and one in Albuquerque–and threatens many more similar breaches of privacy in coming months.
The New York Daily News reports that the group hacked into the Twitter accounts of both news organizations, the Albuquerque Journal and Maryland’s WBOC 16 television stations, posting private information on Tuesday morning. The hackers replaced the Twitter backgrounds with jihadist designs with their name on it and published what the newspaper described as “several confidental [sic] documents including driver’s licenses, corrections records and spreadsheets with hundreds of names and addresses.” The art on the Albuquerque paper’s Twitter page read, “I love you ISIS.”
The New York Daily News notes also that after the attacks, the Cyber Caliphate Facebook page, which has been taken down, read :
You’ll see no mercy infidels. We are already here, we are in your PCs, in each house, in each office. With Allah’s permission we began with New-Mexico and will come to every state, inshallah. We won’t stop. … We know all your personal data: where you live, what you eat, your diseases, and even your health insurance cards.
While the FBI has been contacted about both cases, both news outlets have responded with no significant leads as to why their organizations in particular were targeted. In a post on their website, WBOC administrators noted that the information spread through their social media site was not theirs. According to General Manager Craig Jahelka, the biggest problem for the station was explaining that the hacking was neither a prank nor in any way intended: “We needed to let everyone know this was not our doing … and we are doing everything we can to correct the situation.”
The hackers had previously targeted the Albuquerque Journal in December, stating then that they had contacted the FBI and that “the newspaper’s servers were not breached and the alterations appear to be limited to that story.”
It is not yet known whether the Cyber Caliphate is an official subgroup of the Islamic State or merely a group of Islamic State supporters who have taken on the terrorist group’s mantle. In September, the Daily Mail reported that ISIS itself had made public the intention to establish a “cyber caliphate” dedicated to hacking and destroying web infrastructure important to Western institutions. Al-Qaeda, which is now more of a rival of the Islamic State, though once affiliated with the group, also announced similar plans. There is no clear indication that the “Cyber Caliphate” group is either the group the Islamic State had announced or an independent copycat effort.