In a cyber attack that started around 10am Friday morning and has continued into the afternoon, the Twitter and Facebook accounts of one of Qatar’s most internationally known institutions have been hacked by loyalists of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad.
UPDATE | 4:40pm
Yasser Khan rounded up some of the reactions on Twitter to the hijacking of QF’s social media accounts. (Click through or scroll down to the bottom to see it)
UPDATE | 4:20pm
The QF Twitter account has been locked down as well now, with the page saying “@qatarfoundation’s tweets are protected.”
In an amended statement, QF’s press office adds:
We have now addressed this issue and, as a precaution, taken related accounts offline. They will be fully operational again in the near future.
UPDATE | 4pm
The Facebook page of Qatar Foundation has been taken offline in the last half hour or so.
Its Twitter account remains online, showing dozens of tweets from the hackers. The last message, sent at 3:08pm, links a YouTube video showing a protester holding up a sign saying “USA, EU, Italy, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey support terrorists” while US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks.
Meanwhile, the QF Press Office has issued its first official statement on the matter, reiterating messages shared on Twitter:
Earlier today, Qatar Foundation’s social media accounts were compromised. We are working to address this issue. In the meantime, we thank our online community for their patience and support.
UPDATE | 1:50pm
Qatar Foundation has acknowledged the problem and says it is working to resolve the issue. Tariq Alsada, head of QF’s Press Office, sent us this message:
@dohanews We are working to fix this issue, and once again apologize for this. (2/2)
UPDATE | 1:15pm
So far, some eight Facebook posts and more than two dozen tweets have been broadcast to QF’s nearly 150,000 Facebook fans and 53,000+ Twitter followers in English and Arabic, asserting that Qatar supports terrorism and insulting members of the ruling family, including the Emir, first lady Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and the prime minister.
On Twitter, there is also criticism of Qatar-based Al Jazeera and a link to a YouTube video about Western countries’ use of torture on civilians.
The official Qatar Foundation website appears to be untouched, though.
The first tweet was sent from the compromised Twitter account at 10am this morning:
The group of hackers has in the past targeted Qatar-based media outlet Al Jazeera. More recently, French news agency Agence France Press and SkyNews Arabia saw their social media accounts compromised.
Assad loyalists have repeatedly sought to smear Qatar over the last two years for supporting rebel forces and broadcasting news of the government’s violent crackdown there on Al Jazeera.
In an apparently unrelated attack last month, Turkish hackers took down QF’s student employment website.
Yasser Khan rounded up some of the reactions on Twitter to the hijacking of QF’s social media accounts: