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A cyberattack in an Alabama community this month is an outgrowth of growing conflict in the Middle East, according to a new report authored by cybersecurity firm Bat Blue.
The attack, perpetrated by a Kurdish hacker calling himself Muhmad Emad, “would normally go down as a footnote in the daily onslaught of hacks if it weren’t for what these hacks represented,” Bat Blue’s report said.
In the attack, Emad defaced the websites of a sheriff’s office and a cultural arts center in Etowah County, Ala. The hacker uploaded a picture of the Kurdish flag along with the words, “KurDish HaCkerS WaS Here” and “HaCKeD by MuhmadEmad, Long Live to peshmarga.” It was a reference to the Kurdish army of Peshmerga, an anti-Islamic State force based in Iraq.
The Kurds, who desire an independent state covering parts of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran, have a tenuous relationship with Turkey, which supports some Kurdish elements but opposes the more militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The Turkish government claims the PKK has carried out 2,000 acts of violence in Turkey in 2015.
However, tensions have intensified in the past month. After a suicide bomber killed more than 30 people in Turkey in July, the country initiated a bombing campaign against the Islamic State. The Kurds claim that Turkey has used the campaign as an excuse to hit PKK targets, and in the process killed Kurdish civilians.
The Kurds are becoming increasingly frustrated with what they perceive as U.S. inaction on the matter, and according to Bat Blue, have turned to hacking as a way to vent their anger.
“Kurdish hackers have chosen to find their own means of protesting the Turkish government’s actions and the U.S. government’s debatable indifference,” Bat Blue writes. “Reports indicate that Turkish hackers have been targeting Kurdish social media, charity and business websites in retaliation for cyber attacks against Turk sites attributed to Kurdish hackers.
“Muhmad Emad’s recent defacement of American sites is the first volley in what is sure to become an increasingly complex situation on the ground,” the authors conclude.
The hacker left no other message or indicator of his motivation.