A leading Chinese university’s website was hacked by an Islamic State sympathiser, who replaced its pages with the photos of masked militants and Arabic verses accompanied by the terror group’s propaganda music.
The hacker attacked some web pages of Beijing’s Tsinghua University on Sunday and put music featuring Arabic verses from Islamic scripture that said, “God is great, I am unafraid of death, dying a martyr’s death is my ultimate goal,” news site thepaper.cn reported.
Instead of displaying links to university’s departmental information, the site showed a photo of four hooded fighters on horseback with the flag of the Islamic State.
A screenshot of the hacked web page was uploaded on social media and titled “Islamic State Hacker,” but the accompanying hyperlink led to a Facebook page that could not be opened.
The home page of the university remains intact, and the original contents of the hacked Web pages have not been changed, state-run Global Times reported.
The university quickly shut down its server after the incident, and its Tsinghua National Laboratory for Information Science and Technology is investigating the incident.
A weak password on affiliated pages likely led to the incident, and no evidence has shown that hackers specifically targeted Tsinghua University, it said.
Security loopholes and weak passwords are common on the websites of some universities in China and could lead to hacks of the whole website and the loss of all data, a security expert with wooyun.org, a Chinese Internet security monitoring platform, told the Global Times.
Although some overseas hackers have previously attacked websites in China, this is the first time that IS has been involved in the hacking of a university website in China, if the incident is in fact confirmed to be the work of the IS, the daily quoted an expert as saying.
He noted that it is difficult to trace the hackers unless they claim responsibility.
No organisation or person has so far claimed responsibility for the cyber-attack.
Chinese officials say that a number of Uyghur militants from restive Xinjiang province have joined the IS to fight in Syria.
A Chinese national has been executed by the IS last year.
“The hacker attack may have been conducted by the jihadist group, its supporters or hackers who only want to make a fuss,” Zhu Yongbiao, assistant director of the Institute of Central Asia Studies at Lanzhou University, said.
“The hacking of China’s top university would demonstrate IS’ intent to attract public attention, extend its influence and incite panic, if IS is held responsible,” Zhu said.
Zhu said that since IS is deft in using multimedia to attract followers, Internet police and universities in China should take measures to curb the group’s attempts to gain access to the country.