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The Jewish community has been hit by a wave of anti-Semitic cyber attacks that have targeted Jewish organizations and endangered the personal and financial information of their donors and employees, according to a warning delivered this week.
Websites operated by top Jewish community organizations across the country have been “hacked and defaced” in growing numbers by groups with both anti-Semitic and criminal agendas, according to the alert sent by the Secure Community Network (SCN), an affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).
The uptick in cyber attacks is particularly challenging for the Jewish community, which is a ripe target due to the financial prowess of its donors as well as its political support for Israel.
The problem is compounded by the general community’s lack of preparation and safeguards to prevent such attacks.
“It is apparent that we are currently facing a more concerted and aggressive effort by those attempting to disrupt and deface organizations’ websites and networks,” the alert said.
Copious amounts of private data has been put at risk due to the cyber attacks, according to Paul Goldenberg, the SCN’s national director, who has been in close contact with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.
“Within that data is everything—the names of our students, children,” top leaders, and donors, Goldenberg said. “It’s all there.”
Jewish organizations are additionally reporting an uptick in anti-Semitic cyber attacks, according to the alert.
“In one incident the website was commandeered and erased, the official website replaced by a Palestinian flag with the superimposed image of an apparent jihadist displaying a rifle,” according to the alert. “Among the numerous messages posted on the site was ‘Freedom for Palestine’ and ‘Greetz [sp] to Palestine from Algeria.’”
Other hack attacks have targeted Jewish schools and social service agencies.
“A group referring to itself as the ‘Blackbirds’ hacked the website of a school and defaced it with anti-Israel rhetoric,” the alert said. “In the second occurrence, an unrelated Jewish organization’s site was hacked whereby the offenders re-directed anyone attempting to navigate the home page to a second site considered to be pornographic in nature.”
Goldenberg said that the community faces a “tremendous vulnerability” because it is not yet fully equipped to counter the cyber attacks.
“This is the next emerging threat to the community,” he said. “It is a new frontier.”
The problem is twofold: “The Jewish community is unique because” it is being hit by criminal hackers “but also we’re hit for political, ideological, and anti-Semitic reasons,” Goldenberg said.
Criminal hackers have targeted the Jewish federation system, a nationwide network of nonprofit Jewish community groups that provides social services and other programming.
“The Federation received an $8,100 donation from someone named Davon White,” the SCN alert reported. “The ‘donor’ then indicated that they made an error and their intention was to provide a gift for $810.00.”
“The alleged donor then requested a refund to a credit card they provided,” according to the alert. “Staff did not realize that the second credit card number was different than the original used to make the donation. Many credit card notifications are prepared by third party providers and do not include the original credit card information. We understand that the perpetrators use stolen credit cards.”
Goldenberg is instructing employees in the Jewish community to remain vigilant and report suspicious electronic behavior.
He also is helping to arrange a series of seminars over the next months meant to train employees to spot and deal with cyber attacks.