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This image of the Startup Maryland website shows the result of an apparent cyberattack. It was retrieved from the Google cache and rotated 15 degrees.

Startup Maryland hit by apparent cyberattack

A nonprofit aimed at supporting entrepreneurship across the Free State had its website hacked and replaced by messages related to Islam.

On Thursday morning, the website of Startup Maryland featured the phrase “hacked by TuRal” and a pair of phrases — identified by Google Translate as being Turkish or Azerbaijani — referencing Islam.

An Internet search indicated that a hacker going by the name “Tural” has connections to a group called the Azerbaijan Cyber Army. It was not clear why the hackers targeted the nonprofit.

Startup Maryland Founder and CEO Mike Binko said the hack was the result of a security update for WordPress, the application the organization uses to host its website, that didn’t install properly over the Memorial Day weekend.

The attackers appeared to have exploited a security flaw in the website’s comments section and used it to shut down the site sometime Wednesday evening, Binko said.

By mid-afternoon Thursday, the organization’s regular website had returned.

Binko said the incident illustrated a good lesson for small companies: Stay current on your software updates.

Founded in 2012, Startup Maryland works to help new businesses across the state network with each other and share their experiences and resources. The organization sponsors a statewide “Pitch Across Maryland” bus tour, encouraging entrepreneurs to make videos to promote their ventures and pitch their ideas.

“It’s a mobile ‘Shark Tank’ without the money,” Binko said.

A group of top candidates is then chosen to make more formal pitches at an event sponsored by TEDCO, the state-created organization that provides mentoring and funding for entrepreneurs and startups.

Binko expects to announce the tour date for this falls “Pitch Across Maryland” campaign within the next few weeks.