UK

Confused Islamist Hackers Take Down Bus Timetable Website

02/01/2015 15:55 GMT | Updated 02/01/2015 16:59 GMT

A group claiming to be an Islamist hacking collective is believed to have taken down a West County travel advice website, after seemingly mistaking it for one "promoting the Western world".

A group calling itself “Arab Security Team” took down TravelWest.info site on New Year’s Day, and replaced it with a black page with Arabic writing, playing music.

The message read that the site was “Hacked by darkshadow” and the take-down was orchestrated by "Muslum hackers", giving a Facebook page.

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TravelWest was replaced by this message

Local paper the Western Daily Press observed that hackers may have thought TravelWest was “a more influential website promoting travel around the Western World — not the West Country”.

Amused locals visited the group's Facebook page, which claims the group is based in Tunis, Tunisia, to berate them about the hacking.

On the page, the group claims to have hacked the ESPN Run website, the website of the Moroccan football team, and Zest Airways, part of AirAsia, though many of the sites show no signs of being hacked.

A TravelWest.info spokesman said they had taken the site down and restored service by mid-morning on Friday.

On the website's affiliated Twitter accounts, they made no mention of a hack, just reporting problems with the website.

But traces of the hack remain when the website is googled.

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This is what comes up when you google TravelWest

The site is a collaboration of local transport information, including buses, trains and park-and-ride, between four local councils in the west of England, Bath and Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire councils.

Mild cyberattacks by Islamist-linked groups, who have tended to be from either Syria or Tunisia, have become more prevalent over the past year.

But some of the hacks have the potential be far more serious than a tame attempt to foil the people of Bristol from catching their buses.

Last month, internet watchdog Citizen Lab said hackers affiliated with the Islamic State group were stepping up their operations, though there is no suggestion this group is linked to IS, and the flag used in the hacking is different.

A botched cyberattack in November that was aimed at unmasking Syrian dissidents worried expert that IS is adding malicious software to its arsenal.

The attack came in the form of a booby-trapped email sent to an activist collective in Raqqa, Syria, that documents human rights abuses in IS's de-facto capital. The activist at the receiving end of the email wasn't fooled and forwarded the message to Bahaa Nasr of Cyber Arabs, a project which provides online security training.

Islamic State has previously expressed interest in electronic surveillance. In early December, a post to a pro-Islamic State forum carried a proposal for a project named "Eye of the Caliphate" that would task a team of computer experts with hacking into the caliphate's enemies, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

At the time, it was reported that IS, currently occupying large swathes of Syria and Iraq, was recruiting hackers from the West, including a 20-year-old from Birmingham.