- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Hundreds of school and school district websites were defaced to show support for the Islamic State terror group, their hacked web hosting company said Monday.

SchoolDesk, an Atlanta-based internet firm specializing in maintaining school websites, said a security breach detected Monday morning had caused the pages of customers across the country to display Islamic State propaganda.

“Our technical staff discovered that a small file had been injected into the root of one of the SchoolDesk websites, redirecting approximately 800 school and district websites to an iFramed YouTube page containing an audible Arabic message, unknown writing and a picture of Saddam Hussein,” the company said in a statement.

Archived versions of the defaced sites show that hacked pages displayed the Arabic phrases found on the Islamic State flag, “There is no god but Allah” and “Mohammed is the Messenger of God,” along with the English words: “I love Islamic State.”

Rob Frierson, the founder of SchoolDesk, said the embedded YouTube video that played on hacked Web pages “looked like it was some sort of ISIS recruitment or support video,” using an alternate name for the Islamic State, NJ Advance Media reported.

SchoolDesk has enlisted an outside security firm and is actively working with various local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, its statement said.

The FBI did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

Team System DZ, a group responsible for similar stunt in the past, is believed to be responsible for the hack. The group is credited in the message that appeared on affected sites, and an account associated with the group boasted of the breach on Zone-H, a website where users upload evidence of their online vandalism.

School websites don’t appear to have been specifically singled out by hackers, however. Team System DZ took credit for pro-ISIS defacements Monday allegedly affecting hundreds of other targets, including companies, non-profit organizations and federal agencies, ranging from an Alabama gasket installer to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Among the SchoolDesk customers affected by the latest breach was the school district encompassing Newtown Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the site of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre that claimed the lives of 26 victims including 20 children.

“It certainly sets you back, even though we don’t see any imminent threat,” Newtown Interim Superintendent Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue told NBC Connecticut.

Team System DZ has previously targeted websites running the same or similar versions of vulnerable applications, including a mass hacking campaign in June that affected government agencies in several states, including the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors and the office of Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

The defaced school websites were restored Monday, and SchoolDesk has since implemented “multiple layers of redundant protection,” the company said.

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