A Cricket Club's Account Was Banned After It Was Hacked And Posted ISIS Content
"My first thought would be, why would anyone hack a cricket club's Twitter that has no followers?"
Halls Head Cricket Club, an amateur sporting organisation based in the city of Mandurah on Australia's west coast, had been pretty inactive on Twitter since making an account in 2012.
That is, until a week ago, when the account fired off a number of tweets in quick succession, sharing content seemingly related to the terrorist group ISIS.
The account @hallsheadcc bore the cricket club's logo, and the bio boasted of the club's 14 A-Grade premierships, as well as six in B-Grade and two in C-Grade.
But it was quickly suspended after the dozens of tweets posted on Nov. 14.
The tweets — which are no longer available on Twitter's website, but are viewable through the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine — contain what appears to be ISIS-related videos posted alongside hashtags in Arabic, most of them completely unrelated to the terrorist group.
Halls Head Cricket Club president Ash Wyborn was unaware the account had been suspended when contacted by BuzzFeed News.
"I'm pretty shocked to be honest," Wyborn said. "I don't know what to think. My first thought would be, why would anyone hack a cricket club's Twitter that has no followers?"
Wyborn said he has rarely used the Twitter account since creating it a number of years ago, and was unable to access it when requested by BuzzFeed News.
"We're mostly active on Facebook and Instagram," said Wyborn.
The club's Facebook and Instagram profiles are still active and do not contain ISIS content.
The tweets, along with a number of similar tweets from other Twitter accounts, were found by Eric Feinberg, who is the founder of the Global Intellectual Property Enforcement Centre.
Feinberg said he had noticed a number of seemingly hijacked accounts suddenly posting ISIS content in the past 10 days.
"We found these hacked [accounts] by tracking hashtags in Arabic used by ISIS. These include Islamic Country, al-Baghdadi, Syria, Iraq," Feinberg told BuzzFeed News.
According to an independent translation of a sample of the tweets, the hashtags used are largely unrelated to ISIS, including #SaudiAnimeExpo and #WhereAreYouGoingOnTheWeekend.
Lowy Institute research fellow Rodger Shanahan said the flag and text in the tweet's videos are consistent with genuine ISIS material, but the choice of hashtags — not to mention the decision to hack an amateur cricket club's Twitter account — were out of character for the militant group's followers.
"It's hard to think anyone remotely connected to IS would be doing things in this manner. What's left of organised IS media largely remains wedded to their encrypted sites," Shanahan told BuzzFeed News in an email.
Feinberg believes ISIS sympathisers have targeted rarely-used Twitter accounts, hacking them and using them to spread their message to the account's followers.
"I think this is an effort for ISIS and ISIS sympathisers to show after the death of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi that ISIS has not gone away and to appeal to lone wolf supporters," Feinberg wrote to BuzzFeed News.
A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the suspension of @hallsheadcc but told BuzzFeed News in a statement that the platform is committed to removing terrorist content.
Wyborn hopes to regain control of the account, but isn't too concerned about the breach. He draws a comparison to a recent hacking of an Australian cricketer's Instagram account where intruders posted X-rated photos to its 1.2 million followers.
"Look, if they can target Shane Watson, they can get us too," he said.