Internet hackers, claiming to be associated with the Islamic State terrorist organization, have conducted a series of hacks on various news outlets in the United States and their social media accounts this week, which are being investigated by the FBI.
The group of extremist hackers, which calls itself "Cyber Caliphate," struck on Tuesday, hacking into the Twitter accounts and website servers of the Albuquerque Journal newspaper in New Mexico and the Maryland-based WBOC 16 TV station.
The hackers posted several confidential documents, claimed to have been stolen, in the tweets. Some of the documents include drivers licenses, corrections records and spreadsheets with names and addresses. The hackers also tweeted claims that they also hacked FBI databases. Additionally, the hackers tweeted warnings to the organizations' followers and replaced the companies' cover photos and profiles with pro-ISIS photos.
In hacking into the organizations' websites, the hackers are said to have used a phishing tactic to secure login data from high-access users in the organizations' website admins to access those servers. The hackers posted links on the websites leading to an external site containing supposed compromised FBI documents including law enforcement bulletins.
According to The Baltimore Sun, the hackers tweeted "INFIDELS, NEW YEAR WILL MAKE YOU SUFFER" from the WBOC 16 Twitter account. The Sun also reported that the hackers changed the outlet's Twitter profile picture to a picture of a veiled jihadi with the words "CyberCaliphate … i love you isis." The hackers used that same picture for The Albuquerque Journal's profile picture, as well.
WBOC's general manager, Craig Jahelka, said he doesn't know why WBOC, a regional television station located in the town of Salisbury on Maryland's rural Eastern Shore, was targeted.
"We are as baffled as the folks at The Albuquerque Journal are," Jahelka told the New York Daily News. "We do not have control over our Twitter handle yet, but we have regained control over our website."
As for the Albuquerque Journal, this is not the first time their website was hacked into in recent weeks. In late December, Cyber Caliphate also hacked the Journal's website and took down its lead story, replacing it with text that conveyed support for ISIS. The hack caused the Journal to shutdown the entire website for a few hours.
In a post on the Cyber Caliphate Facebook page, which has since been taken down, the group issued a warning claiming that since it has hacked the FBI database it now has personal information that will help it continue to attack Americans.
"You'll see no mercy infidels. We are already here, we are in your PCs, in each house, in each office," the post stated. "With Allah's permission we begin with New-Mexico [sic] and will come to every state, inshallah. We hacked FBI databases. We won't stop. … We know all your personal data: where you live, what you eat, your diseases, and even your health insurance cards."
The FBI has yet to issue a statement regarding the claim that its databases have been hacked by Cyber Caliphate.
Although the Cyber Caliphate Facebook page was removed, the group's statement was also posted on PasteBin and can still be viewed on that site. According to the post on PasteBin, the group claims that its hacks have created a new type of anxiety among the Americans and also issued a clear warning to the people of Tennessee.
"From this day on you will look around more often, will call up your children more often, think of your security more often but that won't help you," the post states. "Citizens of Tennessee! We are watching you!"
"There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. There is no law but Sharia!"
Although it is unclear as to whether Cyber Caliphate has real ties to the Islamic State or the group just simply supports the caliphate with no direct involvement with its leaders, a security expert who has monitored the Islamic State's online and social media tactics told the Sun that he thinks Cyber Caliphate could be a part of a new ISIS offshoot or splinter group.
"ISIS is a major abuser of social media to spread their propaganda, recruit members and pass on attack target information," said Evan Blair, COO of the cyber security strategy company ZeroFox.