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Did a jihadist hacking mix-up bring down Mass. Maritime's web site?

The president of Massachusetts Maritime Academy thinks a recent trio of jihadist cyber attacks on his school's web site may be due to mistaken identity.

Massachusetts Maritime Academy has been the subject of a trio of cyber attacks this week. Photo Credit: Mass. Maritime Academy. Massachusetts Maritime Academy has been the subject of a trio of cyber attacks this week. Photo Credit: Mass. Maritime Academy.

The president of Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Bourne thinks a recent trio of what appears to be jihadist cyber attacks on his school's web site may be due to mistaken identity.

Rear Admiral Richard Gurnon said a group styling itself as "Moroccan Islamic Union-Mail" hacked the site twice on Monday and once Tuesday night. Gurnon believes that group confused his Cape Cod school for the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

"Our web site is maritime.edu and if you Google search maritime, you'll see young men and women in uniform, for someone unfamiliar with the school it could look like the Naval Academy," he said.

Gurnon said the school first noticed a problem when the site redirected faculty from their emails to images of what appeared to be a soldier's grave, a white cross in a desert and a man speaking in Arabic in the background on Monday.

The school took the site down to "patch up holes" in what Gurnon acknowledged was an old web system and put the site back up hours after the problem was first noticed Monday, only to have the same group strike again that night, wiping out the homepage in another attack.

State IT officials worked at bolstering the site's security and Tuesday, the site was workable again. It didn't last for long; Tuesday night, the group struck again. The site is once again inaccessible to the public -- although it works internally -- as the school works to fix the problems.

"It's going to be down until we can be confident we won't be subject to a hack again," he said. "I'd rather go a month without (a homepage) then have that happen again."

The cyber attack did not access any personal data or information, said Gurnon, who did not believe the school was in any real danger.

"Put it this way: They busted up the screen door, threw paint all over the front of the house, but didn't get past the locked front door," he said.

He believes the group was based overseas and adds that the attack reverberated throughout social media accounts, with known jihadist handles praising the attack.

Since Monday's first cyber attack, theMoroccan Islamic Union-Mail's Facebook account has since disappeared, said Gurnon.

Homeland Security and State Police have been notified of the hacks, said Gurnon.

 

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