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Hackers loyal to ISIS hit PCA church websites, others

ISISHackers claiming allegiance to ISIS have posted jihadist content on websites for several churches and organizations, and more web portals are vulnerable to the attacks.

Jim Richter, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) congregation in Johnson City, Tenn., learned about a cyberattack on his church’s site Jan. 22 when a church member sent him an email. The member visited the website and saw “I love ISIS and Jihad,” a violent video, and obscene language. The hackers claimed to be located in Algeria.

Richter’s church wasn’t the only hacking victim. The hackers also defaced the websites of Pastor Michael Milton, president of Faith for Living Inc., and Hope Presbyterian Church, another PCA church in Martinsville, Va.

Five More Talents, a web-hosting company for churches and Christian organizations, designed and hosted the three sites on a server in Texas. CEO Douglas Vos said the attacks were random; websites for a community college, wedding planner, and Virginia county government stored on the server were also defaced.

These attacks are common in the cybersecurity world. Small businesses, churches, and organizations can expect between 500 and several thousand attempted hacks each month, Vos said.

“It’s not a question of if you’ll be hacked, but when your website’s defaced what you’ll do next,” he said. “Most people are protected because of relative obscurity. But obscurity won’t protect you forever.”

Website hackers break into servers to harvest information or to deface websites, as in this case. Hackers frequently know before software companies when vulnerabilities occur.

Even the U.S. military hasn’t been completely immune to cyberattacks by ISIS. Hackers claiming ISIS allegiance took over military social media accounts Jan. 12, posting jihad propaganda and some military documents. The hackers didn’t leak classified information, so the government classified the attack as “cybervandalism.”

Meanwhile, the FBI continues to investigate the Jan. 22 hack on Five More Talents.

 

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