By Bob Uphues
Anyone who might have tried to visit the village of North Riverside's website Thursday morning between the hours of about 8:20 and 10 a.m. would have been greeted by pictures of a mosque, smoking buildings and pictures of children in hospital beds along with a pro-Palestine, anti-Israeli message.
The website was hacked by a group calling itself the Middle East Cyber Army, which is responsible for similar intrusions on public and private websites across the country and internationally.
It does not appear that North Riverside was targeted for any particular reason. On the Middle East Cyber Army's Twitter feed, the group boasted within the past week of hacking websites for the University of North Texas, Pierpont Community and Technical College in West Virginia, a school district in Arkansas, the International Cooperative Alliance and the site for Lamborghini's Huracan automobile.
"Essentially, they're looking for targets of opportunity," said North Riverside Police Commander Christian Ehrenberg, who reported the incident to the Chicago branch of the FBI.
North Riverside's website was down for more than four hours after IT personnel blocked the intrusion. As of about 3 p.m., the North Riverside website was up and running again.
Ehrenberg said that additional safeguards are being put in place to avoid another hacking incident.
"You try to stay one step ahead of people, and it's a constant race," Ehrenberg said.
It was the second time in several days that the village's website was hacked. On Dec. 12, the Landmark visited the North Riverside website only to be greeted with a general message that the site had been hacked.
That problem wasn't immediately identified because the village offices were closed Friday due to an electrical equipment replacement project. That intrusion was stopped on Saturday when officials discovered it.