Report: Anti-Israel Hackers Take Aim at Charity Aiding Refugees

Giving Children Hope, a Southern California group that has been providing aid to Syrian refugees since 2012, was hacked last week, apparently by Islamic State sympathizers. Here's how they bounced back.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking, but this is our mission. If people didn’t do the right thing because of stuff like this, the world would be a dark place.”

That comment by Giving Children Hope Executive Director Sean Lawrence to the Orange County Register was made in response to a breach of the group’s website last Monday by apparent sympathizers of the Islamic State, the militant organization also known as ISIS.

During the breach, the Giving Children Hope homepage was replaced with a black background and featured “Hacked By Team System Dz” in red print and “i love isis” in white. Zone-H, a website that catalogs such hacks, notes that the group has infiltrated more then 3,600 sites since July, when violence escalated between Israelis and Gaza militants. Team System Dz, which apparently is an anti-Israel group, largely exploits the weaknesses of the WordPress platform to post its messages.

“Devise one hack that works on a site running a particular configuration of the software and you have essentially hacked ALL of them; all that’s left is the button-pushing,” The Cryptosphere, a security blog, noted in a post describing Team System Dz’s hacking strategy. “That is how massive attacks like this happen. It’s one flaw, one vulnerability, exploited 200 separate times. And WordPress is used by millions upon millions of websites.”

The hack of Giving Children Hope could be random, but representatives of the group suggested that it could have been targeted for providing relief supplies to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan.

Giving Children Hope acted swiftly to take back control of its website. The group took the site down, collaborated with an IT worker, and had the site back online within a few hours. In a statement issued Thursday, the group emphasized that donations and personal information are not stored on the website and are safe.

Giving Children Hope promises that the attack won’t deter it from its work.

“We’re going to continue doing the work we do,” spokeswoman Carly Visbal told the Orange County Register. “We don’t have a bias toward who we serve. We just want to serve people who are in need.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!