U.S. government begins legal proceedings against Turkish hacker group

The U.S. government is taking Turkish hacker group Ayyıldız Team to court in the United States, according to IndyTurk.

The U.S. government lodged a request with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York requiring social media companies Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google to reveal details of the group’s social media accounts.

 

Haber7 reported that the U.S. government accuses the group of "waging cyber war on the United States." Mehmet Ishak, Ayyıldız Team’s general manager, responded that "We believe that members of the FETO terrorist organization who have fled to the United States are also behind this." 

Ishak said that his group targeted terrorist organisations such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the organisation of exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, which the Turkish government refers to as the Fethullahist Terror Organisation (FETO).

In June, Greece reportedly recruited 80 hackers to counter threats presented by the Ayyıldız Team, who it is claimed were founded in 2002 in New Zealand, and now have branches around the world. 

The group increased its activities after the 17-25 Dec. corruption cases targeting Gülen’s followers as well as other opposition figures. The organisation hacked emails and social media accounts of opposition figures and critical journalists, publishing private messages on their Ayyıldız Team social media accounts before and after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. Ayyıldız Team’s Twitter accounts with large followings are repeatedly shut down by Twitter. The group’s activities against opposition figures have been praised by government officials as well as pro-Turkish government media figures. Currently, Ayyildiz Team’s Facebook account is filled with Turkish Intelligence Organisation ads and praise for its Chief, Hakan Fidan. The group denies any formal links to the Turkish government.

Gulf Today reported in December that the group “was reported to have hacked Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan's Twitter account” in 2019. Indian news site MyNation said the hackers “target high-profile users who have a strong fan base so that their message is widely spread.”

The Times of Israel have also reported a number of hacks against Israeli officials by the group. In January 2018, the group took over the Twitter account of Dore Gold, a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ambassador to the United Nations.

In 2017, a number of British tabloid newspapers also reported that the group hacked into the website of a UK primary school, North Mundham Primary School near Chichester, West Sussex, and left Turkish nationalist slogans on the school’s site.

More recently, IndyTurk noted that “in 2020, it was alleged that they obtained 100 thousand documents by hacking CIA employees."