Hacker Backers Disrupt Newspaper Web Sites
Michael Stroh
Monday, January 11, 1999


Some Web surfers logging onto the Baltimore Sun's Web site Friday got a
surprise: Instead of the day's headlines, they saw only a stark
black-and-white Web page with a bizarre letter that began:  ``Kevin Freed
by Cows.''

SunSpot and a handful of other Web sites fell victim to computer hackers
conducting a campaign to free master hacker Kevin Mitnick. 

While the incident caused no permanent damage -- the Sun site was
available within two hours -- it did cause several bewildered readers to
call, asking what had happened. 

Bob London of Intermedia Business Internet, the Beltsville, Md., Internet
service provider whose computers host SunSpot, confirmed that its
computers were penetrated about 9:30 a.m. EDT. The security breech, he
said, was repaired by 11:07 a.m. 

Two tabloids who use Intermedia -- the National Enquirer and the Star --
also were affected. Intermedia officials said a ``limited number'' of
their 2,500 business customers were affected, including some nonmedia

While it's unclear who was behind this particular break-in, the strange
message contained references to Mitnick, a figure in the hacker community
once listed by the FBI as the world's most wanted computer criminal. 

Since 1995, Mitnick has been jailed in Los Angeles, awaiting trial on
computer-related fraud charges. (He has two previous convictions for
similar crimes.) His trial had been scheduled to begin this month but was
recently postponed until April, a move that has caused grumbling on Web
sites dedicated to him. 

Computer security experts say Mitnick's long imprisonment without a trial
has inspired many Web site attacks by young acolytes trying to bring
attention to his cause. 

``We see 150 to 200 Web page hacks a week that have to do with Kevin
Mitnick,'' said John Vranesevich, founder of AntiOnline, an organization
in Beaver, Pa., that aims to educate the public about hackers. 

[JP and Antionline claim to want to educate the media, then make
such claims? 'hacked.net' was probably the LARGEST archive of web hacks,
and the central place where hackers would report their latest attacks, was
getting no more than 50 a week. Of those, less than half mentioned Mitnick
as I recall.]

Most of these attacks involve small, mom-and-pop Web sites, Vranesevich
said. Sometimes, however, hackers attempt to topple bigger game. In
September, for example, the New York Times was forced to close its Web
site for nine hours after hackers who claimed to support Mitnick broke in
and vandalized the paper's home page.