Islamic cyber group Fallaga hacked six Thai government websites on Monday, replacing the sites’ original content with images and messages condemning the treatment of Rohingya refugees. The attacks which took place during the early hours of the morning, targeting the official government websites of four provinces (Lamphun, Sing Buri, Sa Kaeo and Tak), a government hospital and a university publishing house. A Ministry of Information spokesperson confirmed the six sites had been compromised but that the hackers had not accessed any government information.
The hackers identified themselves as members of the Tunisia-based Fallaga Team, a name they claim to have taken from anti-colonial militants that fought against the French occupation of Tunisia. Fallaga has previously hacked French, Belgium, Tunisian, and Israeli websites. They were also one of the groups involved in the unprecedented cyber assault on French media in the wake of the Charlie Hedbo killings. They admit to sharing religious and political beliefs with ISIS but have confirmed that they are an entirely independent organisation.
Government websites in Thailand are notoriously insecure and are hacked on a regular basis. Just last month hacker group Team GhostShell were believed to have hacked over 80 websites in the country. Security experts estimate that Thai government websites often account for 85% of all government-hosted malware in the world. Improving security and cleaning up Thailand’s government websites will take a substantial commitment but given the more pressing concerns the country is currently facing it will probably remain a low priority until more urgent reforms have taken place.
Monday’s cyber-attack on the Mahasarakham University’s publishing website read “hacked by Tunisian Fallaga Team just for our Muslims in Burma” and it appears the attacks were aimed at raising awareness of the treatment of Muslim minority Rohingyas. The Fallaga hackers made no reference to the expatriation of Uighur Muslims to China, a move that was criticized by Muslim communities and human rights organisations.
Coming just one week after the bomb blast at the Erawan shrine, which killed 20 people, these cyber-attacks hit Thailand while the country is still on high alert. Police leading the bombing investigation have yet to identify who is behind the attacks. In the absence of any clear motive a wide range of theories have been circulating. One theory is that the bombing is linked to an international jihad group. Thai authorities have been reluctant to comment on this theory, despite the arrest warrant describing the suspected bomber as a ‘foreign man’.
Despite its extremist rhetoric, there is no evidence that the Fallaga group has directly engaged in terrorism and it’s very unlikely this cyber group has any links to last Monday’s tragic events. Yesterday a spokesperson for the Royal Thai Police confirmed this, saying the hacking was not believed to be related to the bomb attack.
Despite being unrelated to last week’s deadly attacks, the hacking of Thai government websites by a notorious Islamic cyber group strengthens the argument that Thai authorities must face a new reality – the country is no longer impervious to the growing threat from religious extremists.