Special to the Ledger
HAMDEN — Over the weekend, an international hacking group known as “Moroccan Ghosts” hacked the websites of approximately 50 Jewish congregations across the country, including Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation–Emek Shalom (FVJC) in Simsbury on Friday, Nov. 23.
Upon learning about the attack to FVJC’s website, the Connecticut office of the Anti-Defamation League contacted the synagogue’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Howard Herman, to obtain details that the organization then provided to Kimberly K. Mertz, the special agent in charge of the FBI office in Connecticut, and the FBI agent who heads the state’s Cyber Crimes Unit. ADL also sent a security alert to Connecticut’s synagogues and Jewish institutions to advise them of the problem. By the end of the weekend, Connecticut rabbis reported back to ADL that they were aware of synagogues in other parts of the country whose websites were attacked by Moroccan Ghosts. ADL shared that information with the FBI, who then determined that the incident was not isolated and is of national concern. All of the synagogues targeted are affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ).
While the actual culprits remain unknown, Moroccan Ghosts is a familiar commodity in the hacking community, regularly attacking Israeli and Jewish targets. A recent post on their Facebook page, translated by ADL investigators, took responsibility for hacking “one of the most significant and very extreme Zionist assemblies that support Israel in America.” The post also denied the Holocaust.
“It is truly unfortunate that people with such hatred for Jews are becoming more sophisticated in their attempts to harm us,” said Gary Jones, ADL’s Connecticut Regional Director. “However, we are proud that we have established such strong a relationship with the FBI in Connecticut that Ms. Mertz would immediately get back to us on a weekend. In addition, it has been heartening to see the seriousness with which the FBI has been addressing the issue once they were alerted to it by ADL. One of our foremost concerns is the safety and security of the Jewish people and Jewish institutions, and we are extremely grateful that our friends at the FBI are so responsive to this concern as well.”