If you happened to visit the website for Malaysia Airlines on Monday morning, you may have seen something a little puzzling. According to multiple outlets, it probably looked something like what you see pictured above — a top-hat adorned, monacled, pipe-smoking lizard, with the words "404 - Plane Not Found" above it, an apparent mocking reference to the infamous disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 last year. In short, it seems that the Lizard Squad hacker group targeted Malaysia Airlines' website Monday, though the problem has since been fixed.
It's a situations that's also generated a lot of concerned coverage thanks to the text that lies underneath the deliberately ridiculous image: "Hacked by Lizard Squad - Official Cyber Caliphate." If that last word sounds familiar, it's likely because you've heard it in the news recently in regards to Islamic militant group ISIS — a "caliphate" is essentially an Islamic state, and it's the exact authority asserted by ISIS as it's torn through broad swaths of Iraq and Syria.
ISIS leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi asserts that he's the so-called caliph of a burgeoning, worldwide Islamic state, and the inclusion of this terminology with the Malaysia Airlines hack is fueling concern that Lizard Squad may have sympathy for, if not a connection to, the terrorist organization.
Over the last several months, Lizard Squad has mounted several high-profile actions, most of them DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks, also once tweeting a bomb threat to a plane carrying John Smedley, the president of Sony Online Entertainment.
Various outlets have reported that certain regions of the world saw an additional message hammering the ISIS point home: "ISIS Will Prevail." Of course, it's worth keeping things in the proper perspective — online troublemaker culture is fond of few things as much as getting a rise out of people, and while Lizard Squad has professed support for ISIS before (most notably in prior hacks against Sony's Playstation Network), you never really know. It could be a gesture of extreme cynicism, rather than a genuine avowal of support. That said, the group's Twitter account has made the connection pretty plainly before, insisting back in August that "Today we planted the ISIS flag on @Sony's servers #ISIS #jihad." That account is now suspended, but the tweet was reported by the International Business Times .
In a way, assuming that ISIS or its proxies are indeed aping this stereotypical, trollish hacker style this well is uniquely worrying, though it wouldn't be the first time the group has dipped its toes into social media. In fact, to the contrary, ISIS' online presence is reportedly very potent, the result of deliberate planning and forethought into how to reach a global audience. This does raise the obvious question of how taunting an airline about its very bad 2014 achieves any kind of publicity coup for an Islamic terror group. But suffice to say, Lizard Squad's place in the online firmament got even a little more concerning today — on their Twitter account, they've also claimed to have stolen data from Malaysia Airlines' servers, including some passenger itineraries, and are threatening to release them.
Image: Getty Images