Islamic State-Linked Hackers Seize Control of Defra Website

Jim McQuaid/Twitter
Jim McQuaid/Twitter

Islamist hackers took control of a government website this morning, posting an image of Saddam Hussein and criticism of Britain’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq – all set against a black background. The UK Air website, run by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) was down for just over an hour.

According to the Guardian, the hack was first spotted by atmospheric scientist Jim McQuaid who at 7:05am tweeted: “Calling @DefraUKAir – your website has been hacked!”

Attached to the tweet was an image of a black screen featuring a picture of the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, whose regime was toppled by combined British and American forces in 2003.

Text on the page, written in broken English, read: “It’s time to remind the British government what you did with Saddam Hussein will not forget And we are ready to sacrifice with everything, as not to give up Iraq and stay alert for the coming…”

The page included a link to the Arabic-language Facebook page of the Moroccan Islamist Union-Mail, the group who claimed responsibility for the hack, which features a grainy image of eight youths wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “M.I.U.M”.

Last month, the group boasted of having hacked Zambia’s state website, posting the message “Moroccan Islamic Union-Mail We do not want muscle-flexing. Just want to get our message across to the world to discover the truth. Yes, the fact that should be explored invite you to show filter this video to discover the truth for yourself #THE TRUTH WILL PREVAIL” on

The Anti-Defamation League, which counters racism and extremism, has previously accused MIUM of undertaking hacking activities on behalf of Islamic State, targeting Jewish websites in the United States during last summer’s conflict in Gaza. They then shifted focus to US military linked websites later in the year, when the US military was engaged in an air campaign against Islamic State. British forces were also part of that air campaign.

DEFRA’s UK Air website usually publishes British air pollution information for the coming days, and information and data on air pollution more generally. By 8am DEFRA had regained control of the site, posting a holding page and by 8:24am normal service had been resumed.