Community Media Sites Cracked Across the Globe
(Denver, CO April 29th, 2005)
At approximately 8:20 am MST April, 28th, volunteers with the Colorado Independent Media Center (CO-IMC) reported that their on-line news server had been cracked. Five years worth of community-developed news stories, videos, and pictures were destroyed, and the open-source news site was replaced with text from an organization calling themselves "g00ns.com". Within hours, a dozen other affiliates of the global Independent Media Center collective fell victim to the same form of attack. The parties taking responsibility claimed that the people behind IMC are "anti-Republican." The colorado.indymedia.org website is a local affiliate of a global grassroots media movement, with over 200 chapters world-wide. Like the main Indymedia website (www.indymedia.org), the locally-based IMC website was largely populated with articles chronicling local and international movements ranging from criticisms of the Iraq war to various viewpoints on the debate surrounding CU-Boulder professor, Ward Churchill. The popular website receives over 1,000 visitors a day, but instead of viewing the standard news articles, photos, and links that visitors expect to see on the site, those who visited the website today were treated to the following statement "You have lied to the American People over and over again. You attend The Fifth Hope and spread your wicked ideology there. Expect more of this."
Identified only as "Clorox" the author went on to say "Our soldiers are dying over se(a)s to give men, women, and children a taste of freedom and you call them imperialists. You are nothing but pigs. You are not against Bush you are against Republicans, you are against anyone who has a different opinion and way of thinking than you. Your box got rooted for lying to the American people."
Colorado IMC Volunteer Tony Shawcross responded "The irony of the accusation is that the Colorado Indymedia website being attacked is an uncensored, open-source news outlet that allows any individual or group to post an article or opinion promoting any viewpoint. These people could've posted an article to get their point across and we would've posted it front-and-center."
As it turns out, the attacker used the very nature of the indymedia websites as open source media outlets against them. COIMC volunteer Chris Harris explained, "The IMC websites are designed for open access. anyone can submit news stories containing images, videos, audio files and other executables to the server. This attacker used that open door policy to plant a script or a program that would wipe out the content of the sites and give him control so that he could post whatever content he wanted."
By Friday, several administrators of the cracked IMC websites were able to locate the responsible program and warn other indymedia sites against loading the executable on their server. Once identified, the source of the program was tracked by several sites to a batch of IP addresses owned by Collin Creek Community College in Plano, TX.
Many IMC users immediately recognized this as the same source where last year, a Sophomore Computer Science major was accused of hacking the NY IMC website and replacing their content with a series of anti-Kerry pop-ups that resolved by steering visitors to the official George W. Bush website. The student, who maintains the website www.rightwingextremist.net took credit for that attack which drove nearly 250,000 hits to his website that month. As of Friday April 29th, at least 10 other indymedia sites from across the globe have joined the list of victims, including richmond.indymedia.org in Virgina, atlanta.indymedia.org in Georgia, austin.indymedia.org in Texas, and three overseas sites from cyprus.indymedia.org. Volunteers for these organizations have issued a call to friends and allies who support free speech to help them re-create their websites and protect them against future attacks.
Those interested in supporting the rebuilding efforts in Colorado are encouraged to join the Rocky Mountain Indymedia mailing list by contacting RM@indymedia.org