When Operation Bald Eagle founder Jeff Mitchell went to check the nonprofit's Website Saturday, he got a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
The site had been hacked by someone calling himself Fayzoun, and claiming to be a Tunisian, the main page replaced by a black photo featuring an Arabic scene and a skull and crossbones.
Operation Bald Eagle is a nonprofit that offers several services that are performed throughout the year as a way to give back to Law Enforcement, Fire & Medics, Military and their immediate families. These include care packages sent out to the troops several times a year, visits to the VA Hospitals in Seattle/Tacoma several times a year, and "Project Picking up the Pieces" for the families affected by loss and their respective agency/department or military service.
"I was sickened and just went, 'Oh my gosh,'" says Mitchell, who's been visiting Sammamish from Salt Lake City for the past few days. "It really feels like a violation. All this information you use to keep people up to date on what you're doing."
Mitchell said the timing of the attack is ironic, because he was getting ready to talk with his web master on Monday about some site updates.
"We were just talking about website security the other day. My mother-in-law heard on the news that some government websites were attacked yesterday," he said, though he doesn't know if those issues are related to the attack on OperationBaldEagle.org.
Luckily, except for a few recent updates, the site's contents are backed up, and it should be up and running soon, says Mitchell. Mitchell checks the site nearly every day, so it's not likely that the site was down for long before he caught it. He's working on reporting the cyber-crime to the FBI, and says one of his main concerns is whether someone could have accessed his own personal information through the attack.
"Obviously nobody's impervious to it, but it's frustrating," he said. This is the first time in the organization's four years in operation that something like this has happened, but Mitchell said he believes that something good will come out of it.
"This year is probably going to be the most exciting year we'll ever have," Mitchell says. He said he's looking at expanding the program both in Washington and Utah, including possibly starting a retreat for families of fallen soldiers. Mitchell recently resigned from his 19-year position with Verizon to run Operation Bald Eagle full time.
"At the end of last year, it was really starting to take off in Utah, so we sat down as a family and said is this something we want to do full time? I resigned from Verizon after 19 years, and I'm now now taking my retirement and savings to really pour into this, and we're finding more and more support," says Mitchell, adding that he has really enjoyed Verizon and its support over the years as well.
Mitchell says his intention with the organization is to keep it small enough to maintain a personal touch, rather than looking at going national.
"I can go out with the soliders and the families and have dinner with them," and keep in touch.
The organization is always looking for additional volunteers and donations, which can be made through US Bank, Bank of America, and through Paypal to jeffmitchell@operationbaldeagle.
Until the organization's Website is restored, Mitchell asks that people keep in touch with Operation Bald Eagle through its Facebook page, and he says he's open to ideas from the local tech community about website security.