The Epilepsy Foundation has warned people with epilepsy to be wary of a coordinated hacking campaign seen on social media sites like Twitter.
The massive cyberattack was coordinated to occur during Epilepsy Awareness Month. It was maliciously intended to cause serious harm to people who suffer seizures when they see flashing graphics.
The Epilepsy Foundation has filed criminal charges against the people behind the attack, but the question remains: Why target random people over the internet with attacks designed to cause them actual, physical harm?
The purely malicious act confused and upset many, and the foundation moved quickly to warn their followers of the activity.
“These attacks are no different than a person carrying a strobe light into a convention of people with epilepsy and seizures, with the intention of inducing seizures and thereby causing significant harm to the participants,” stated Allison Nichol, the director of legal advocacy for the Epilepsy Foundation.
“The fact that these attacks came during National Epilepsy Awareness Month only highlights their reprehensible nature.”
A similar attack was carried out in 2016 against journalist Kurt Eichenwald, an outspoken critic of Donald Trump.
Following Eichenwald’s public comments decrying the then-candidate, a malicious hacker named John Rayne Rivello sent the reporter a flashing GIF that said, “You deserve a seizure for your posts.”
The attack had its desired effect: Eichenwald, a known epileptic, went into a seizure from the flashing graphics.
Thankfully for Eichenwald, his wife found him. The journalist himself insists that, had his wife not found him, he would likely have died as a result of Rivello’s attack.
Following the attack, Rivello sent messages to friends on Twitter, claiming responsibility for the act and wondering if Eichenwald would die as a result of his malicious actions.
Rivello is expected to plead guilty in the court case pending against him. He is accused of aggravated assault by “inducing a seizure with an animated strobe image, knowing that the complainant [Eichenwald] was susceptible to seizures and that such animations are capable of causing seizures.”
Rivello seems to have reached some kind of plea deal, though his sentence is still unclear.