The country’s largest rape crisis centre has assured victims that its website is secure after what was initially thought to be an anti-feminist attack by hackers claiming to be from Islamic State.
Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said she was shocked to discover on Sunday that the home page of the centre’s website was carrying a banner of the black flag used by Islamic State militants.
It was emblazoned with a slogan in Arabic, believed to translate into a declaration of loyalty to God, along with the message “Hacked by Islamic State (ISIS). We Are Everywhere”, a link to a Facebook page, and a song playing in Arabic.
“It was really ominous,” said Ms O’Malley-Dunlop. “We got word through somebody who was trying to access our website. People only usually access our website for help and support so it could have been a victim who discovered it.
“It was really horrible and the fact that it was International Women’s Day made us feel that we were being targeted deliberately.”
It later emerged that the same message had appeared on a number of seemingly random sites around the world, particularly in the US, where businesses including restaurants, a furniture store, an IT firm, and a brewery were affected.
The FBI is co-ordinating the investigation in the US while, in Ireland, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre called in the gardaí.
Ms O’Malley-Dunlop had to take to social media to alert the public to the attack, as it was not possible to remove the banner until yesterday morning. IT experts have since declared the website itself was not infiltrated and that the banner was only pasted above the front page.
“What really comforts us is that it wasn’t us they were targeting and that the actual website was not contaminated,” said Ms O’Malley-Dunlop. “We are ultra secure with our website so they couldn’t actually get into it but we have upped our security even more.
“It’s really important that our website is secure and that people are confident when they come on to it that they can trust the people who work on it because it’s usually the most vulnerable people who used it. “
The only link between the affected sites appears to have been that they were all created using the WordPress website package.
Business sites in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Australia, Serbia, and Iceland were also affected, according to various international press reports.
The Facebook page which was linked to the banner carried the name Mohammad Ali but it was taken down as word of the hacking spread.
Dublin Rape Crisis Centre helps victims from all over the country. Its website carries practical information about the services it offers and how to access them.
It also runs the 24-hour helpline which is freephone number 1800 778888.
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