Hackers vandalised a relatively small U.S. government website on Sunday, leaving behind a message for President Donald Trump and implying that the government of Iran was behind the hack. But there’s no evidence yet that Iran was actually behind the intrusion, according to the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a division of the Department of Homeland Security.
Hackers defaced the U.S. Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) website, a hub for government documents, with an illustration of President Trump getting punched in the face and bleeding from his mouth. The vandalised website was archived by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, which crawls the internet periodically to preserve public websites.
The vandals replaced the landing page of the U.S. government site with pro-Iran and pro-Palestine messages, and called the recently assassinated Qassem Soleimani a martyr for Iran. What appeared to be Iranian missiles were also photoshopped into the graphic.
The U.S. government is on high alert in the wake of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, an Iranian general with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who was revered inside the country. Soleimani was reportedly killed by a U.S. drone at the direct order of President Trump, a man who spent the weekend promising to do war crimes if Iran strikes back against the U.S. Specifically, Trump promised to target Iranian cultural sites, something that’s forbidden under international law.
The text on the hacked page said that “severe revenge awaits those criminals who have tainted their filthy hands with [Soleimani’s] blood.”
Other parts of the hacked page contained broken English, like the phrase, “We’re always ready, to be continues…”
“We are aware the website of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) was defaced with pro-Iranian, anti-US messaging,” a spokesperson for CISA told Gizmodo via email.
“At this time, there is no confirmation that this was the action of Iranian state-sponsored actors. The website was taken off line and is no longer accessible. CISA is monitoring the situation with FDLP and our federal partners.”
The website does appear to be back up and operating as usual, as of early Monday morning.
Trump also spent the weekend claiming that he doesn’t need to get approval from Congress to start a full-scale shooting war with Iran, insisting that his tweet on Sunday was his notification of Congress.
These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2020
And all of this is making Americans decidedly less safe. The CISA issued a bulletin on January 4, warning that while there was no “specific” threat against the U.S, Americans should remain vigilant.
“As described in the recent NTAS bulletin, in these times of increased threats, all organisations should increase monitoring, back up your systems, implement multi factor authentication, and have an incident response plan at the ready,” a CISA spokesperson told Gizmodo. “For more information on the cyber threat landscape and prevention and preparedness tips, please see CISA.gov.”
Leaders in Iran have vowed revenge and today saw massive crowds for the state funeral of Soleimani. But at this point there’s not much the average American can do but sit by and wait for whatever comes.
The best we can hope for is that whatever happens, President Trump doesn’t overreact and start World War III. Let’s just say we’re not holding our breath.