KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – The Malaysia Airlines website was commandeered Monday by hackers who referenced Islamic State extremists and claimed to be from the “Lizard Squad”, a group known for previous denial-of-service attacks.
It was not clear why the troubled airline was targeted but the hacking group said on its Twitter feed that it was “Going to dump some loot found on malaysiaairlines.com servers soon.”
Visitors to the website were re-directed to another page bearing an image of a tuxedo-wearing lizard and reading “Hacked by LIZARD SQUAD – OFFICIAL CYBER CALIPHATE”.
It also carried the headline “404 – Plane Not Found”, an apparent reference to the airlines’ puzzling loss of flight MH370 last year with 239 people aboard which tipped the already struggling carrier into crisis.
Media reports said versions of the website takeover in some regions included the wording “ISIS will prevail”.
Malaysia Airlines released a statement confirming its Internet domain name had been compromised, re-directing users.
“At this stage, Malaysia Airlines’ web servers are intact,” it said, but added it could take nearly 24 hours to fully resolve the issue, which it had reported to Malaysian authorities.
“Malaysia Airlines assures customers and clients that its website was not hacked and this temporary glitch does not affect their bookings and that user data remains secured,” it said.
The Lizard Squad is a group of hackers that has caused havoc in the online world before, taking credit for attacks that took down the Sony PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live network last month.
The extent of any links with the Islamic State, however, are not yet known.
The group has seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq in a brutal campaign and declared an independent Islamic “caliphate”. It also has used social media in recruiting and spreading its message.
The group has prompted world revulsion with its video-taped executions of journalists and other foreigners it has captured.
On Sunday, it claimed to have beheaded a Japanese security contractor. A second Japanese captive has also been threatened with execution.
Concerns over IS have spiked in Malaysia after scores of its citizens were lured to the Syrian extremists. Malaysian authorities last week said they have detained 120 people suspected of having IS sympathies or planning to travel to Syria.
The unexplained loss of MH370 and the airlines’ poor crisis-handling in the aftermath of the disappearance severely damaged public confidence in the carrier, sending business into a tailspin.