UNION COUNTY, NJ — Last weekend, Kean University’s website was attacked by an Algerian hacker group demanding a free Palestine, and as of press time on Tuesday, the website was still offline.
Anyone who tried to reach www.kean.edu on Saturday afternoon was likely greeted with strange text asking if they felt safe, expletive laced insults leveled at the United States and a demand for a free Palestine.
“The Kean University website, hosted by an external web services provider, was attacked three times over the past weekend by a group calling itself Red Hell and claiming to operate out of Algeria. The hacker posted despicable messages,” according to a statement released by Margaret McCorry, director of media relations at Kean University.
On Saturday, Dec. 19, around 4 p.m. the first cyber attack took place, according to the school. By 11 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 20, the school’s website had been attacked three times.
“Each time, the site was disabled immediately,” McCorry said in a statement.
The site was not taken down fast enough to stop some students from capturing images of the statements that replaced the usual Kean website, and many took to social media to share their images and feelings.
“The main webpage, by my estimate, has been down for 40 straight hours,” said a Tweet by “Not Dawood Farahi,” a popular Twitter feed where students often share complaints, comments, successes and more about Kean University. In fact, someone on Twitter using the handle “Red Hell sofyan” has claimed responsibility for the hack, alleging he is not a “group” as Kean asserted but working alone.
“Am not team am solo,” reads one Tweet by “Red Hell sofyan” from Monday morning.
In a statement, Kean said the website will be offline “until further notice” and when pressed, McCorry was unable to give an estimate for when the site will be back online. However, she said critical operations were not compromised.
“At no time were Kean’s mission-critical operations, including financial and record-management systems, KeanWise or the University’s email system, breached or compromised,” McCorry said in a statement. “The Kean University Police Department has informed the appropriate law-enforcement authorities, the Department of Homeland Security and the New Jersey State Police, of the cyber-attacks.”
Prior to this statement from Kean, the university informed the student body and faculty of the attacks and outage via email. According to that initial release, Kean’s server is hosted externally, meaning by a third party off campus. After the first two attacks, the school says a new firewall was put in place and the site was back online at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Less than 12 hours later, the site was attacked again and has been offline ever since. At this point, “Red Hell sofyan” began mocking Kean on Twitter.
“They think they had security hhahahah,” reads a Tweet from “Red Hell sofyan” after the third attack.
“Red Hell sofyan” even asks “NotDawood” to contact him or her via private messaging, and also says “expect new attacks.” The Twitter feed for “Red Hell” boasted about the attack repeatedly, and many of its messages have had a good number of expletives.
None of the claims by the “Red Hell sofyan” Twitter feed can be verified, and law enforcement representatives could not be reached regarding the issue before press time.
When asked about the “Red Hell sofyan” Twitter comments, McCorry declined to speculate, instead saying such matters are better dealt with by law enforcement.