A hacker claiming to support Islamic State has infiltrated an elite university in China and defaced pages on a website for students and teachers.
Beijing’s Tsinghua University is the latest organisation to be targeted by hackers with a social or political agenda, commonly known as hacktivism.
Pages on a university website with links to class resources and departmental information were replaced with images of masked militants beneath the flag of Islamic State, but other websites on the university’s server, including its homepage, were not affected, according to reports.
The hacker also posted a message in Arabic that read: “God is great, I am unafraid of death, dying a martyr’s death is my ultimate goal.”
The hacker also posted a message in English that read: “Everything is OK in the end. If it’s not OK, then it’s not the end.”
The incident, which has not been officially confirmed by the university, was initially reported by its student newspaper and picked up by state-run media, but the original report has since been deleted, according to Phys.org.
The affected website was also taken down to “prevent further spreading of the message”, according to the South China Morning Post.
Although Tsinghua University is involved in defence and security research projects and its websites are regular targets of cyber attacks, the paper said it is not clear why it would be targeted by IS, but this could be the first time hackers linked to the group have attacked a website based in China.
China was declared one of 18 enemy states by IS in 2015, and the Chinese government has blamed militants with links to IS for a series of armed attacks in the country’s Xinjiang region.
The troubled region is home to the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority, which has reportedly been the target of attacks by Chinese hackers.
The attack on Tsinghua University is part of a growing hacktvism trend, which is expected to continue in 2016, according to Trend Micro’s annual security predictions report.
Hacktivists will be driven to expose even more incriminating information, impacting targets and facilitating secondary infections, the report said.
Trend Micro’s researchers believe hacktivists will escalate their attack methods to destroy targets systematically with high-profile data breaches.
In January 2016, Japanese car maker Nissan was targeted by hacktivist group Anonymous in its campaign to raise awareness of Japan’s continued killing of whales and dolphins.
In November 2015, Anonymous is believed to have taken most of Iceland’s government websites offline for more than 10 hours as part of the same campaign.
In recent years, several prominent commercial brands have been targeted by hacktivists, including Microsoft, Burger King, PayPal UK, FoxNews and the Financial Times.
The rise in hacktisvism, often involving distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, has prompted leading organisations to include such attacks in their routine business risk assessments.
Politicians’ websites and social media accounts are also a common target of hacktivists.
Most recently, a hacker gained control of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’ s Twitter account, but managed to publish only four posts before control was taken back and the posts deleted.