Islamic Society email hacked

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Oxford University Islamic Society has had its email account hacked. At least two emails sent by a hacker to the society mailing list have caused offense.

The two emails in question were apparently sent from the account of an ex-president of the society, although Cherwell has been informed that the emails were in fact sent by a hacker.

The first email invites Islamic Society members to “celebrate the 56th Pirate Day – a national holiday widely celebrated in my homeland, Somalia”.  The perpetrator then goes on to ask the society member to “come in fancy dress on the theme ‘Pirates through the ages’. Exotic Somalian [sic] dishes will be served and traditional Somalian music will be played. This is an event not to be missed and everyone is wholeheartedly invited.” 

The breach first came to light when members of the mailing list complained about receiving emails they felt were irrelevant to them, or should not have been sent to the whole list. Later that day, the above email with more serious implications was received by all members, appearing to invite them to a party celebrating “the 56th Pirate Day”.

Despite the email being immediately explained as a fake, a further message was sent by the hacker claiming that “the celebration [would still] take place” and that “someone [was] trying to hamper the event”. 

Although the messages were accepted as bogus, their nature caused some upset around the University. One student claimed that they were “very offensive”, with another calling it a “very tasteless prank”.  

When asked about the incident by Cherwell, a spokesperson from Islamic Society said “There was a small technical issue with the mailing list, which has now been fixed. The mailing list is made up of anyone who wishes to be kept informed about any activities the Society runs via sign-up on the website, and so includes non-Members.

“Whoever sent the fake emails did so through a website which specialises in sending emails using another person’s email address. There hasn’t been a problem in the past, and we believe there won’t be in the future. The Society considers the matter resolved.”

The Society has unfortunately been unable to find the person who sent the messages. One member explained, “We can’t track down the perpetrators as the website used ensures anonymity. However, we know it was that website due to the tag that appears when you look at the emails sent parameters.” 

The member whose email was involved said, “To be honest, I didn’t view it as racist, more that it was ham-fisted and crass, and something that doesn’t reflect what I know about the overwhelming majority of Islamic Society members. I didn’t need an apology, as I know the committee members well, and they were more upset by the whole thing than I was. In the end, the matter was dealt with.” 

Students from across the University praised the Society’s handling of the situation. A second year from Balliol said, “Although I felt Islamic Society dealt with it quickly and efficiently, I did think they should have sent out a general apology concerning the content of the messages. Even if it wasn’t their fault, it happened on their watch. I guess that would have drawn more attention to the issue, however, just what the person who sent them would want.”

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