Former President Donald Trump’s website was hacked Monday and defaced by a purported pro-Turkey “hacktivist,” roughly one year after online vandals similarly targeted Trump’s and Biden’s campaign sites — the latest in a series of digital attacks targeting American businesses and political entities.
Earlier Monday, the “Action” section of Trump’s website featured a video of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the message “Hacked by RootAyyildiz” and links to Facebook and Instagram pages containing references to both Turkey and Erdogan.
By Monday afternoon, all references to Turkey were removed, and action.donaldjtrump.com redirected to the homepage of Trump’s website.
Trump’s website first appeared to be defaced with references to RootAyyildiz on October 9 at the latest, according to archived versions of the page.
The identity of RootAyyildiz is not clear, but in a message to Forbes from a Facebook account linked on the defaced webpage, RootAyyildiz claimed to be a 19-year-old “hacktivist” from Turkey who ostensibly targeted Trump’s site three months ago to protest the United States over “anti-Turkey and anti-Islam” stances.
Trump’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s campaign site was also reportedly defaced last October by hackers who claimed — without any evidence — they had classified information denigrating Trump. Website defacement is a fairly low-grade tactic, often employed by unskilled hackers who track down security vulnerabilities, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency says.
Hackers supportive of Turkey — a longtime NATO member whose relationship with the United States has frayed in recent years — have targeted U.S. entities in the past. A portion of Biden’s campaign site was defaced with references to Turkey and RootAyyildiz in mid-November. The U.S. National Intelligence Council appeared to reference that incident in a March report on foreign interference in the 2020 election, claiming Turkish nationalists defaced a presidential candidate’s website (the federal report didn’t suggest the Turkish government was tied to the hack). Pro-Turkey hackers also took control of several American journalists’ Twitter accounts in 2018, cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike told CNBC.
American entities have faced a wave of cyberattacks and online influence operations in recent years. In particular, U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia used social media and state news outlets to sow discord and sway the 2020 presidential election in Trump’s favor, after Russian government-linked hackers were blamed for a 2016 breach of the Democratic National Committee’s network. Russia-based groups have also been blamed for cyberattacks on a major U.S. gasoline pipeline, a large producer of beef and several U.S. government agencies in the last year. The Russian government has denied any ties to hacking campaigns, but some experts think these attacks were conducted with the government’s tacit support.
Here Are Some Of The Major Hacks The U.S. Blamed On Russia In The Last Year (Forbes)