How a cricket match led to a hacker war

Detail from the meme created by Bangladeshi fans that set the chain of events in motion Detail from the meme created by Bangladeshi fans that set the chain of events in motion

Fierce cricket rivalry is a tradition in South Asia. But a match between Bangladesh and India saw fan-fanaticism taken to the extreme - and ended with hackers taking down Bangladeshi government websites.

The spat began around the time of the final of the Asia Cup between India and Bangladesh last Sunday. India was favoured to beat the smaller country, but the Bangladesh Tigers have been playing well recently, and were hoping for an upset.

Spurred on by their hopes for victory, Bangladeshi fans mocked up a gory, cartoonish image showing their star player Taskin Ahmed holding the severed head of India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

The image spread rapidly throughout social media - shared by those using it as a battle cry, and by others condemning the Photoshopped picture for being in bad taste.

In the end, India won by eight wickets to capture their sixth Asia Cup title. But Indian fans weren't keen to forgive the pre-match Bangladeshi bravado. They adapted the gory meme and also posted pictures of Bangladesh's "trophy cabinet" - empty of course.

All of which would have been simply a footnote in the long history of rabid cricket fandom. But trading insults wasn't enough for some Indian fans.

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After the match a team of hackers calling themselves the Kerala Cyber Warriors hacked into more than 15 Bangladeshi websites, including several belonging to the government. Visitors to the sites were greeted with victorious Hindi music, yet more cricket memes and a message: "YOUR CRICKET TEAM IS NOTHING".

A hacked website

The hackers wouldn't identify themselves but they did tell BBC Trending why they had carried out the attacks.

"They (Bangladesh fans) started this and we finished it," they said via email. "They went too far in Photoshopping Dhoni's picture. It went viral and we felt really bad. Their attitude provoked us to do this."

"We know defacing a site is a crime. But this is payback. Bangladeshi hackers have done the same in the name of cricket. So why can't Indian hackers do the same?"

Indeed, this isn't the first time cricket fans have hacked websites from other countries. Kerala Cyber Warriors have targeted Pakistani sites in the past - India's main rivals on the cricket pitch.

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At the time of publication, several Bangladeshi websites, including a government one, were still under the control of the hackers. The Bangladeshi government did not respond to requests for comment.

The Kerala Cyber Warriors have suggested a solution, however. "We didn't delete any data from the websites. We just defaced their home pages. They can easily recover the sites by uploading a default file," they explained.

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