Sunday, July 6, 2003

A contest among hackers to deface Web sites around the world hit hundreds of unsecured Web sites yesterday, but most computer users were not affected.

Internet security specialists said they saw a slight increase in attacks, mainly to personal Web pages or sites for small businesses. Large company Web sites such as Yahoo, and went unscathed.

Last week, hackers running a site called encouraged people to deface as many Web sites as possible during a six-hour period yesterday. Points were awarded based on the number of defacements and the type of server hacked, with up to 500 megabytes of free Web space going to the winner.

The contest organizer, who used the nickname “Eleonora[67],” told hackers to make their defacements known by e-mailing Zone-H, an Estonian Internet security company that tracks Web site defacements. But the company’s Web site was unavailable for much of the day, after a rival group of hackers knocked the site off line.

By late afternoon, Zone-H reported 66 attacks to home pages and 33 attacks to several pages on a site, known as “mass defacements.” Security specialists said reports of more defacements probably would trickle in throughout the week.

The total is higher than the average number of attacks reported each day, but not unusual. As an example, the company reported 129 attacks to home pages and 359 mass defacements on June 18.

Hackers had until 6 p.m. EDT to report defacements.

Nearly all of the Web sites affected yesterday were personal Web pages or from small businesses, many of which had only their main home pages defaced. One was, an Austin, Texas, provider of air compressors, tractors and masonry equipment. Hackers wrote “Xfree Team Ownz yOu” on the front page and included information on how to contact the hackers through an online chat site.

Security analysts said small businesses and personal Web sites are the most vulnerable to defacement, because users and their Web hosts are less likely to invest in protection against hackers.

The contest Web site,, had been taken off the Internet by its host, Affinity Internet of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. But it was up again by yesterday afternoon, after organizers re-created the site on personal Web space provided by Lycos, and then moved it to the original domain using a forwarding service.

Some hackers apparently chose to boycott the contest, to the frustration of organizers, who referred to boycotters as “packet kiddies,” a derisive term among hackers meant to indicate inexperience and recklessness.

“To packet kiddies that [sic] are trying to boycott our challenge … I do this to challenge you, don’t boycott us,” the Web site read.

Officials from the Homeland Security Department did not issue a statement regarding the contest yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

Last week, the department downplayed the contest as not being a threat, and Internet security firms debated whether the contest should have been publicized at all. Atlanta-based Internet Security Systems first notified customers of the contest in an e-mail last week.

Al Huger, a senior director of engineering at Symantec Security Response, said the “event has probably been more hype than reality,” and that sites were no more vulnerable to a defacement attack than on any other day.

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