RNLI website down after ‘suspicious activity’ detected

The charity reminded staff and volunteers to stay vigilant after suspicious activity was detected on its website and threatening emails sent to staff

The RNLI Newhaven lifeboat is seen beyond waves as they crash into the sea wall at Newhaven Harbour (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has been forced to take down its website after “suspicious activity” was detected on the site and the charity’s staff were sent threatening emails.

The RNLI site remained suspended today after the suspected hacking attempt was reported on Friday afternoon.

On the same day, the charity reminded its staff and volunteers to “stay vigilant” after its employees received threats that were subsequently reported to the police.

The day before the website was taken down, the Independent reported that the far-right political party Britain First had mounted a new campaign urging its supporters to join a “complaints drive aimed at the RNLI to pressure them to abandon their support for illegal immigrant [sic] and people trafficking and focus instead on saving British lives”.

The group set up an automated online form that sent emails written by Britain First leaders to the RNLI’s chief executive, Mark Dowie.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “The RNLI’s website was the subject of suspicious activity on Friday 3 December 2021.

“As a precaution, the RNLI has taken the decision to take down its website while investigating the activity.

“We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused and we’re working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible."

The spokesperson added: “In light of this suspicious activity, and following threatening emails that the charity received and reported to the police on Friday, the RNLI has taken the opportunity to remind its staff and volunteers to stay vigilant to keep themselves, their colleagues and RNLI systems safe.

“We are focused on our core purpose to save lives at sea and our 24/7 lifesaving service remains fully operational.”

RNLI supporters can still make donations, buy gifts and keep in touch with the charity using links provided on a temporary webpage at RNLI.org.

The charity has faced increasing criticism over the past 12 months from anti-migrant groups over its role in saving lives in the English Channel; work it has staunchly defended.

Just last week a fundraising campaign was set up following reports of “racist fishermen” blocking lifeboat crew members from entering the English Channel to rescue migrants in difficulty.

The GoFundMe page, which has since been amended, was set up with the notional aim of fitting RNLI boats with rocket launchers to “blast idiot gammons” into the sea.

The fundraiser’s organiser, Simon Harris, previously raised more than £130,000 for the charity in a campaign to buy it a life-saving hovercraft he wanted to name The Flying Farage.

That fundraising drive was inspired by seven-times failed parliamentary candidate and GB News presenter Nigel Farage accusing the RNLI of being “a taxi service for illegal immigration”.

Previous criticism of the charity’s work in July this year led to a 2,000 per cent increase in donations to the RNLI in just 24 hours after a video of its volunteers rescuing migrants in the English Channel went viral.

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