Hackers target QF web channels

March 02, 2013 - 2:34:28 am

By Azmat Haroon

Doha: Qatar Foundation’s social media channels were hacked yesterday by loyalists of the Syrian regime.

In the cyber attacks that began at around 10am and lasted until 3pm, derogatory comments and images about the country were posted through QF’s accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  

“Earlier today, Qatar Foundation’s social media channels were compromised. We have now addressed this issue and, as a precaution, taken related accounts offline,” Qatar Foundation said in a statement.

“They (accounts) will be fully operational again in the near future. In the meantime, we thank our online community for their patience and support,” it added.

‘Victor Battalion-Syrian Electronic Army’ claimed responsibility for the attacks.

While the QF Twitter account was restored, the Facebook account was still down last evening. Delays in restoring the social media accounts also caused an uproar, which saw many people criticising the IT department of QF.

The derogatory content and images were not removed until  4pm, four hours after the attacks were launched, they said.

“From what I understand, QF had received anonymous emails from fake accounts with external links. Someone must have opened them, which gave hackers access to important data on the server,” an official at QF told The Peninsula on the condition of anonymity.

He said that employees of QF were being sent notifications urging them not to open anonymous emails.

“I expect to receive a notification to change the password of my QF email ID very soon,” he said, adding that there is a possibility that the attackers may infiltrate the email accounts of QF employees.

That, however, depends on the intensity as well as the purpose of the attack.

“At this point, it appears the organisation is still not sure about what went wrong,” he added. 

Haya Al Nassar, Communication Director at QF, apologised for the offensive content.

“We at Qatar Foundation apologise for the messages posted on our accounts; these accounts have been compromised and do not represent QF,” she said in a tweet.

Many people on social networking sites said that Qatar is being targeted because of its stance supporting the people of Syria.

“This act shows the weakness of the enemy, who is losing the battle on ground and in the media,” said a tweet by a Qatari citizen.

Another issue is that most social media channels of organisations are interconnected, which makes it easier for hackers to penetrate into the system, once they have the login credentials. 

IT professionals, meanwhile, said that the recent cyber attacks on Qatar-based organisations is a serious cause of concern for everyone. 

The same group had recently targeted Doha-based Al Jazeera network.

“The issue is not whether these organisations have an inbuilt security system. What’s most important is how regularly they update their security systems — which keep them up-to-date against new threats,” said an IT professional. 

The Peninsula