(JTA) – Pro-Palestinian hackers briefly took over the Pittsburgh Jewish Federation’s feed on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Hours later, after retaking control, the federation deleted its account on the platform. The federation said the hack impacted its Facebook account as well.
The hack took place less than two weeks after the deadliest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, in Israel, and just days before the fifth anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, which was the worst antisemitic attack in American history.
“I’m appalled by the clear hacking of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s account,” wrote. Sheila Katz, the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, who drew attention to the hack in a post on X. “The audacity is truly egregious. If anyone understands the impact of violence & trauma inflicted upon Jews, it’s them. They’ve already endured far too much.”
Jewish communal officials have been on the alert for cyber attacks since Hamas’ invasion of Israel, which killed 1,400 and wounded thousands more. More than 3,700 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s ensuing war on the terror group in the Gaza Strip.
Before dawn on Thursday, the hackers replaced the banner photo of the federation’s social media feed with a Palestinian flag emblazoned with the phrases “Free Palestine” and “Stop the Genocide.” The hashtags #JewsAgainstGenocide and #FreePalestine were added to the bio blurb on the feed, “Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s vision is a flourishing community where everyone feels included & supported.” An appended link led to an Egyptian Red Crescent donation page.
Officials of the federation quickly reassumed control of the feed, and as of later Thursday morning, a photo of a family had replaced the Palestinian flag and the hashtags were removed. The link to the federation’s web page was restored.
By the afternoon, however, the account was deleted. Its profile was blank and a form message read, “This account doesn’t exist. Try searching for another.”
“We made a strategic decision to take down our Twitter page,” Shawn Brokos, director of community security for the federation told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. In an earlier statement, she said, “We can confirm that our Facebook and Twitter accounts were accessed by unauthorized parties and are now recovered and secured. We are not aware of other active threats at this time.”
Before being deleted, the Pittsburgh federation’s Twitter page appears to have been inactive for a year or so. The federation’s Facebook page is more active, and includes statements and actions in solidarity with Israel amid its war with Hamas.
“In light of the Hamas attack on Israel and the intelligence that we’ve received, low-level cyber attacks are part of what Hamas has planned for Jewish organizations,” Brokos told the Chronicle. She urged community organizations to “be very vigilant and practice good cyber hygiene. That means reviewing your IP systems protocols, and also looking for email addresses or accounts that are no longer in use and making sure to delete them.”
Brokos said the Pittsburgh federation reported the hacking incident to the Secure Community Network so that other Jewish organizations around the country could take precautions.
“Even though it was certainly a disturbing and unfortunate event, what we experienced here in Pittsburgh has enabled us to better guide our other Jewish organizations and prevent this from happening going forward,” she said.
Earlier this month, the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle’s website was briefly disabled due to a cyber attack. PJC
Toby Tabachnnick contributed to this report.