- The Washington Times - Monday, August 3, 2015

New poll numbers continue to show Donald Trump as the favorite among Republican voters ahead of next year’s presidential election, but the billionaire business tycoon is attracting attention now not just from conservatives, but computer hackers too.

The Canadian branch of Telecomix—a loose-knit hacktivist group that supports open access to the Internet and digital rights—has taken credit for cracking into one of Mr. Trump’s websites and publishing a tribute to television host Jon Stewart on the eve of his last broadcast with The Daily Show.

A message from the loose-knit hacking group appeared on Trump.com early Monday and had managed to stay online so far for several hours without being removed.

“Mr Stewart, we at @TelecomixCanada would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the many happy years of quality journalism and entertainment you and your team have undertaken at Comedy Central,” reads part of the posting, which is by-and-large more of a celebratory essay praising The Daily Show host than a jab at The Donald.

“Should you ever come to wonder what the stars look like over the North Atlantic on cool clear evening, flag us,” the hackers wrote to Mr. Stewart. “Our currency is greatly devalued at the moment, bring a popup if you can, tents aren’t as comfortable.”

The communique concludes with Telecomix wishing best of luck to Mr. Trump, “America’s first openly Asshole Presidential Candidate.”

A statement that surfaced in connection with the defacement and attributed to Telecomix Canada claims the presidential hopeful’s website was not damaged beyond the posting of the pro-Stewart message, but should send a signal nonetheless to Mr. Trump, who previously lambasted the Obama administration for spending billions of dollars on the panned Healthcare.gov website.

“And remember the $5 billion website? Five billion we spent on a website, and to this day it doesn’t work. A $5 billion dollar website? I have so many website[s]. I have them all over the place. I hire people, they do a website. It costs me $3,” Trump said back in June.

“We honestly take great umbrage with Mr Trump’s ‘3 dollar websites’ comments in relation to public service Internet systems as it represents popular and dangerous assumptions about the value of a secure and safe Internet for all,” TelecomixCanada said in the statement. “We know it is but one comment in a constellation of observations that many find controversial, so in the spirit of Mr Stewart’s work - the irony and truth of leaving a thank you note for Mr Stewart on trump.com is meant to educate decision makers to this singular falsehood.”

Trevor Pott, a systems administrator and tech writer for The Register, said that appears hacktivists exploited code in Trump.com that was “pretty awful” and ripe with potential attack vectors.

“If it is the people’s decision to elevate Mr Trump to the Presidency, as it was here in Canada for Mr Harper, we wish him well and hope that he will be mindful [of] this cautionary experience going forward,” the hacktivists wrote.

The results of polling conducted by NBC News with the Wall Street Journal and released over the weekend placed Mr. Trump as the top candidate among likely GOP voters. The first televised debate among major contenders vying for the Republican Party nod will happen on Thursday this week.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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