Another anti-Semitic act was aimed at the local Jewish community when the Walk for Israel website was hacked on Tuesday, March 14. The hackers deleted the website’s homepage and replaced it with a black screen bearing a hateful message (see screen shot above).
Andre Douville, CEO of the annual Walk for Israel and executive director of Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield, said he learned about the hacking on Tuesday afternoon after receiving several phone calls and text messages from people who visited the website.
In keeping with established protocol for these incidents, he called the West Bloomfield Police Department, which responded immediately.
West Bloomfield Police Chief Mike Patton said detectives are working with the FBI to determine whether this was a bias-motivated incident or cyber-crime that violates federal law.
On Monday, Douville reported, “The authorities were able to track the hack to an origination point in Southest Asia. The FBI will report the details to the corresponding government agency counterparts, but I am not confident anyone will be identified or prosecuted for the hack.”
Patton said, “It’s unfortunate and sad.” He added the incident seemed to be bringing the community together as news of the hacking spread.
Douville, who said his first reaction was anger, contacted the website hosting company, HostGator, which immediately took down the hate-filled screen and replaced it with a previous Walk for Israel home page that had been saved during a recent back up.
The company also performed a “ root cause analysis” to uncover information that could help authorities identify the perpetrators.
“I was very angry and dismayed,” said Douville, “but we’re not going to let this person or organization intimidate us.”
He has received hundreds of emails, phone calls, texts and Facebook messages from people throughout the community expressing their collective outrage and support.
“They are telling us not to concede and letting us know everyone will still be coming to the walk,” Douville said. “So, the hacking had the opposite effect of what they [the hackers] were trying to achieve.”
Gary Sikorski, director of community-wide security for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, helped coordinate the investigation with Douville and the West Bloomfield Police Department. Sikorski said the hacking is a reminder to all Jewish organizations to make sure their websites and online activities are protected as fully as possible.
When asked whether this incident will prompt increased security at this year’s Walk for Israel, Sikorski said, “While it certainly has our attention, security is always a high priority. There is a lot of security preparation before every walk; if anything, there is an abundance of precaution.”
The hacking is a continuation of several anti-Semitic incidents locally and across the country that include bomb threats aimed at multiple Jewish organizations, anti-Semitic incidents at schools and universities, and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis, Philadelphia and Rochester, N.Y.
The annual Walk for Israel will be held on Sunday, March 7. Visit www.walkforisrael.org for more information.
Ronelle Grier is a JN contributing writer.
Look for a commentary from Andre Douville on this website.