Anti-ISIS hacking group takes responsibility for BBC website outage


New World Hacking says it was simply testing its capabilities

An anti-ISIS hacking group has claimed responsibility for knocking out the BBC’s websites on New Year’s Eve.

None of the BBC’s websites, including its popular media player, BBC iPlayer, were available for several hours on 31 December after being hit by a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack.

The group claiming to be behind the outage, called New World Hacking, said it attacked the BBC’s network as a “test of its capabilities”, using DDoS to bring down the websites by overloading their servers with more traffic than they can take.

The BBC has not confirmed or denied that its outage was caused by such an attack, but BBC News cited an anonymous source saying DDoS was the cause.

In a tweet to BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, the group said: “We are based in the US, but we strive to take down ISIS affiliated websites, also ISIS members.

“We realise sometimes what we do is not always the right choice, but without cyber hackers… who is there to fight off online terrorists?

“The reason we really targeted [the] BBC is because we wanted to see our actual server power.”

This response came from one of the group’s members, known only as ‘Ownz’. Earlier in its message, New World Hacking said: “It was only a test, we didn’t exactly plan to take it down for multiple hours. Our servers are quite strong.”

New World Hacking later told BBC News that the group consists of 12 people – eight men and four women – and formed in 2012.

It also claimed to have been involved in other hacktivist campaigns, including against the Ku Klux Klan, and the #OpParis action to flag and report ISIS social media accounts after the Paris attacks in November last year.

The group said it has carried out DDoS attacks against ISIS websites already, but intended to “really get into action” against the organisation from 5 January.

It comes after another hacking collective, Anonymous, declared “war” on ISIS, with measures including a “trolling day” against the terrorist organisation in the form of encouraging supporters to upload posts mocking the group to social media.

Upping the cyber-defence ante

The UK government also identified terrorist cyber attacks as a major threat in the future, pledging last November to double cybersecurity funding over the next five years to £1.9 billion.

Chancellor George Osborne said: “ISIL’s murderous brutality has a strong digital element. At a time when so many others are using the internet to enhance freedom and give expression to liberal values and creativity, they are using it for evil.”

The protection of hospitals, energy supplies and other vital infrastructure is a top priority in the event of a large-scale cyber attack from terrorists, the government said.

Hacking incidents have become more regular and more prominent in the last few years.

Last year, millions of users had their account details stolen from adultery website Ashley Madison. And in October, cybercriminals stole thousands of TalkTalk customers’ personal information.