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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Police probe alleged hacking of Carlisle College website by Islamic militants

A major investigation is underway after a Middle Eastern extremist organisation allegedly hacked Carlisle College’s website.

Carlisle College website photo
The site claimed to support ISIS

For several hours the site appeared to have been overtaken by representatives of the militant movement Islamic State (ISIS).

The college’s description on search engines stated: “Carlisle College are proud supporters of the Islamic State (ISIS) movement. We believe that their actions are justified, and have courses to help new Jihadists.”

The site has now been taken offline while Cumbria police’s hi-tech crime unit works closely with specialists and college IT staff to track down the hacker.

Staff at the college, in Victoria Place, only became aware that the website had been hacked after officers contacted them on Saturday.

Paul Walker, head of marketing and communications, explained: “A member of the public from the Cleator Moor area made police aware, and they contacted us.

“We are trying to establish who was responsible and how they did it; we have quite robust security measures in place.”

As well as hijacking the description of the site, the hackers infiltrated almost every aspect, so it even appeared to be offering “bomb-making courses”.

“Initially my reaction was disbelief,” Mr Walker continued. “Like many of your readers, we can understand if we were high-profile – if we were one of the agencies or somewhere in the United States – but for a small college, in a small city, it’s quite unusual.”

Mr Walker reassured students that both the student database and the online learning server were entirely separate entities and therefore were not affected.

A police spokeswoman confirmed that an investigation had been launched, although she was unable to clarify exactly what the offence was.

It is too early to say whether the hackers were linked to the Islamic extremist group, but all possibilities are being investigated. The college website will remain offline until further notice while investigations take place.

Mr Walker encouraged anyone who wishes to speak to the college to phone 01228 822700, email info@carlisle.ac.uk or contact them via social media.

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