Website of anti-abortion group Youth Defence hacked

Anti-abortion group reports attack to gardaí and claims breach of data protection laws


Anti-abortion organisation Youth Defence has made a complaint to the Garda Síochána after the group’s website was hacked. The site’s homepage was replaced for a number of hours today with an article headed “This is not the hate-filled truth-distorting website you’re looking for.”

The article, which did not identify who was behind the attack, described Youth Defence as “an extremist group”. The text also claimed the anti-abortion group “actively” hides its links to “shady right-wing connections” and accused it of hiding its source of funding.

The hackers also published a number of links to a list of subscribers to the Youth Defence newsletter. The links were subsequently removed and replaced with the message: “Users list deleted. Sorry, didn’t think about the privacy concerns. Everybody is allowed their own views.”

Youth Defence, which describes itself as Ireland’s “most active pro-life organisation” said it has reported the incident to the Garda Síochána. The group claimed the hackers had broken the Data Protection Act and that serious penalties would apply

“Aside from being illegal and utterly pointless, the actions taken by the person or persons who did this have breached the privacy of people on both sides of the debate,” said spokeswoman Clare Molloy.

“Publishing private mailing lists should demonstrate, with utter finality, who the real extremists are in this debate”, she said.

She described the claims made by the hackers as “juvenile” and “hysterical”.

She said Youth Defence “is a successful and thriving organisation” and the hackers have been “reduced to screaming from the side lines and making up fairy stories.”

Youth Defence’s charity status was questioned and several claims were made in the message posted by the hackers about the anti-abortion group’s source of income.

The hackers claimed the “vast amount” of the group’s financial support comes from the US and that a “huge proportion” of those attending the group’s organised events are “not Irish”.

“It’s well known that North American fundamental Christians are flown in to boost their numbers,” the hackers claimed.

The article also made claims about three American men it said are involved in fundraising for the organisation.

Accusing Youth Defence of “scare tactics, illegal advertising and propaganda,” the article accused the organisation of “smearing the country with their billboards, posters and leaflets”. The hackers said this material is “misleading” and consists of “outright lies”.

The article claimed only 14 per cent of the anti-abortion group’s Twitter followers are from Ireland. Of the group’s 72,000 Facebook likes, the hackers claim 38,000 are from the USA, while only 9,000 are from Ireland.

The Data Commissioner’s office said there may be a potential breach of the Data protection Acts 1988 and 2003 if it were found that, as the data controller of the information, Youth Defence had not placed adequate security on its website to prevent such an occurrence. The hackers could also be in breach of the law if “they fell under Irish jurisdiction”.

Under Irish data protection rules companies are obliged to notify the subscribers or individuals concerned if there has been a breach likely to affect their personal data or privacy.

While the incident in question not been reported to the Data Commissioner’s Office and data controllers are not obliged under data protection legislation to notify the Office of such a breach, it is considered best practice to do so.

The hacked website is hosted in the US by Texas-based company AM Design. The company lists a number of prominent Christian and commercial organisations as customers.