A nation-state hacker
The hackers target websites and leave pro-Isis messages iStock

A cybercrime group is causing havoc in the US and Canada by hacking into the websites of police stations and schools and defacing them with pro-Islamic State propaganda.

On Wednesday (8 November), the latest victim emerged, with a branch of law enforcement in Prince Albert - the third-largest city in Canada's Saskatchewan province – confirming that its website was forced offline after being hit by a group branded "Team System Dz".

Local media reported the police website was hacked to display a black screen with the text "I love Islamic State", while an audio track looped in the background.

In a Facebook post, officials said IT experts were called in to investigate and that work was already underway to restore the website to its former glory.

Officers stressed that no sensitive data was believed to have been accessed or stolen during the incident.

Deputy Chief Jeff Rowden said: "This incident serves as a reminder to the public that agencies and individuals can be vulnerable and if they receive questionable e-mails or content on their computer or device to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or their internet provider."

Sgt. Travis Willie, the author of the Facebook update, said the force had never experienced such an attack, but that it was taking "proactive measures" to ensure it can't happen again.

He wrote: "This incident has had a minimal impact to the operations of the Prince Albert Police Service, with the exception of the website being temporarily unavailable.

"We apologise to the public for any inconvenience. The group responsible for changes to the website have been in the media previously due to activity on other sites. Prince Albert Police Service will not comment on this group as we do not want to promote them further in the media."

He was right to say that Team System Dz has been a busy bunch of late.

Earlier this week, the group – most likely a set of internet pranksters rather than Islamic State fundamentalists – targeted hundreds of schools in the US with similar defacements.

The hackers, who remain unknown, altered screens to show images of Saddam Hussein. Messages read "There is no god but Allah" and "Mohammed is the Messenger of God."

In the summer of 2017, the same group went on a hacking spree which resulted in the defacement of US state and government sites – including the homepage of Ohio Governor John Kasich.

In June 2016, Vice reported that the group had – for some reason – hacked the website of a Canadian food truck, leaving the message "I am Muslim and I love Jihad." No motive was given.

They are not limited to one location, however, often hitting targets around the world.

A scan of Zone-H, a platform which archives defaced websites, shows that the group remains highly active to this day. The Prince Albert Police homepage remains offline at the time of writing.