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Denmark Hit by Hack Attack in Rekindled Muhammad Cartoons Controversy

© AFP 2023 / EMMANUEL DUNANDDanish Interior Minister Inger Stojberg holds her phone showing a Danish flags as she attends a Justice and Home Affairs Council at the European Council in Brussels on November 18, 2016
Danish Interior Minister Inger Stojberg holds her phone showing a Danish flags as she attends a Justice and Home Affairs Council at the European Council in Brussels on November 18, 2016 - Sputnik International
Two Danish Ministries' websites have been downed in a hacker attack following Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg's posting highly contentious Muhammad drawings, which previously ignited Muslims' rage across the globe.

Only days after Denmark's Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg rekindled the decade-old controversy surrounding the Muhammad cartoons, the Ministry of Immigration and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark's websites were rendered inaccessible in a hacker attack seen as retribution, Danish Radio reported.

Both ministries experienced a marked increase in web traffic, which apparently would render the websites inaccessible or vulnerable to further actions, and discontinued server connection to avoid any damage. So far, no indications of compromised data have been reported. However, experts suggested a possible destruction of IT data, based on the fact that the websites took several hours to resume their operation.

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A Turkish group called Aslan Neferler Tim claimed via messages posted on Facebook to be responsible for the attack. However, the claim has not yet been officially confirmed. The group specifically linked its attack to Støjberg's posts on social media earlier this week praising Denmark's infamous Muhammad cartoons.

Senior analyst at the security company FireEye Jens Christian Høy Monrad described Aslan Neferler Tim as "typically driven by pro-Turkic interests," yet noted that it has been behind attacks motivated by Islamic ideology.

Støjberg herself described the connection between her statement with the Muhammad drawings and the attack as noteworthy, yet could neither confirm that the Turkish group was behind the attack.

"One should say there is a time-wise coincidence," Inger Støjberg told Danish TV-channel TV2.

Peter Kruse, IT security expert at the company, CSIS contended that the attack revealed the Danish state's lack of preparedness to deal with this sort of thing.

"This is a good example of something that must not happen under any circumstances, because the website is our face to the outer world. If a hacker group has been able to put the page down, it tells us that we may not be completely ready for sabotage attacks of this type," Peter Kruse said.

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Earlier this week, Inger Støjberg posted an image on Facebook showing she used one of the highly debated Muhammad cartoons as her background image on her phone. Her post was a reaction to the Skovgaard Museum in Viborg's decision not to include the drawing in an exhibition about blasphemy, despite the fact that Denmark abolished its centuries-old blasphemy law earlier this year as outdated. In her post, which made international headlines, Støjberg stated that the cartoons helped define Denmark "as a free society," where one can say what they want and criticize who they deem necessary.

"I have Kurt Westergaard's famous drawing as my background image on my iPad. I have it there because I love Denmark. I love the foundation of freedom rights that generations before us have laid out and which our lovely country is founded on. <…> Honestly, I think we should be proud of the Mohammed drawings!" Støjberg wrote.

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The post gathered over 21,000 reactions, close to 8,000 comments and some 2,100 shares.

In 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten posted twelve caricatures of Muhammad, which trigged an outcry of rage in the Muslim world, causing global riots, several attacks on Danish embassies and a major international boycott. Since then, some of the cartoonists have received multiple death threats and are forced to live under constant police protection.

Twelve years later, the Muhammad drawings still affect Denmark's security, according to the latest assessment by the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET). According to PET, the terrorist threat to Denmark predominantly originates from people with sympathies for militant Islamism, motivated, among other things, by the cartoon controversy.

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