An online spat is developing between Islamist and pro-Western hacktivists.
Sections of infamous hacker collective Anonymous launched #OpCharlieHebdo last week in responses to terrorist attacks that killed 17 in Paris, including 10 cartoonists and journalists and two police constables in and around the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The Western activists want to purge pro-terrorist Twitter accounts as well as knocking terrorism-related sites offline.
Anons claimed their first success with a hit against the website ansar-alhaqq.net, a French-language jihadist forum.
Some Anonymous hackers have “declared war” on Al Qaeda and the Islamic State terror groups.
In response a loose coalition of Islamist hackers have defaced several French websites. Several hacking groups are claiming responsibility for "religiously motivated defacements," Helmi Noman, a researcher with the Berkman Center at Harvard University and the Citizen Lab at University of Toronto told Mashable.
One group, calling itself the United Islamic Cyber Force, taunted Anonymous in various defacement while calling on other Muslim hackers to join its "OpFrance" hacking campaign.
The normal content on defaced websites has been replaced by a logo and Islamist propaganda, decrying insults against the Prophet Mohammed. The run of defacements doesn't appear to be related to the embarrassing hijack of the US Central Command Twitter account by pro-ISIS hackers earlier this week.
Various shades of Muslim opinion are being represented in various ragtag hacking collectives, whose affiliations remains unclear.
The United Islamic Cyber Force (@uicforce) and other similar outfits such FallaGa Team, a longer-established group set up in 2013, are mostly picking off the low-hanging fruit, i.e. mostly websites affiliated to medium-sized businesses. Unlike Anonymous they don't seem to be out to blitz targeted websites off the web altogether.
One notable victim is the website of Notepad++, the open source text editor, which earned the ire of Muslim hackers because it released a “Je suis Charlie” edition. Normality has quickly restored at the site, which is one of the few targeted to be even remotely affiliated with the loosely-grouped Je Suis Charlie free speech movement. One victim - panierdelamer.fr - was defaced last week in an unrelated attack.
Defacements are normally the online equivalent of vandalising a notice board put up by a targeted organisation but they can be more serious at times in cases where malware has been planted on compromised sites. Nothing along these lines has happened as yet, thankfully, in what's shaping up to be the biggest dust-up of its type since patriotic hackers locked horns with Anonymous over the release of US diplomatic cables by Wikileaks back in 2010. ®