Hackers sent videos and images of flashing strobe lights to thousands of Twitter followers of the Epilepsy Foundation last month in a mass cyberattack that apparently sought to trigger seizures in those with epilepsy, the foundation said on Monday.
The series of online attacks was particularly reprehensible, it said in a statement, because it took place during National Epilepsy Awareness Month.
“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,” said Allison Nichol, director of legal advocacy for the nonprofit foundation, which finances epilepsy research and connects people to treatment and support.
The foundation reported 30 such attacks in the first week of November, and said it had filed complaints with law enforcement authorities, including with the United States Attorney’s Office in Maryland, where the group’s headquarters are. It was unclear how many people clicked on the videos and animated images known as GIFs.
Cyberattacks intended to trigger harmful seizures in those with epilepsy have become more common in recent years, particularly after a Texas author was targeted in 2016.
In that attack, John Rayne Rivello, a Marine Corps veteran from Maryland, was accused of using Twitter to send a GIF with a blinding strobe light to an epileptic author, Kurt Eichenwald, who had written critically about Donald J. Trump and his supporters during the 2016 presidential campaign.