Claim that Islamic State hack brought down university internet services appears unfounded

10 December 2015
What was claimed

Islamic State has hacked a major computer network used by universities.

Our verdict

The network has been attacked, but the idea that it was Islamic State appears to be based on speculation from a single, unnamed student.

"Students left without internet after Islamic State 'hack' major computer network"

Daily Express, 8 December 2015

Universities have suffered disruption after the network that provides them with the internet suffered a "distributed denial of service" (DDoS) attack. These attacks often involve overwhelming the target's services with requests from a number of computers.

In the headline to its article on the attack, the Express blames Islamic State. But it's been pointed out that the evidence it gives for this appears to be less than solid.

In its subheading the Express is more equivocal about the involvement of Islamic State, saying that the group "allegedly" hacked into the network. More details of these allegations are found lower down in the article:

"A UCL student, who asked not to be named, said: 'The timing is dreadful—it makes you think that it was the work of a terrorist organisation. IS have the technology to pull off such a heinous act of cyber-crime, so maybe it was them.'"

Not exactly compelling proof, on its own. The article goes on to say that "those behind the attack are unknown".

The provider, Jisc, has told us that "the identity of the perpetrators remains subject to an ongoing criminal investigation."

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