June 25, 2009

Oregon University Web Site Compromised By Pro-Iranian Hacker

Unrest in Iran appeared to be the sole motivating factor behind an Internet attack on Wednesday that redirected Web traffic from the Oregon University System's Web site to a site carrying a political message about the state of the Iranian election.

Visitors to the university's Web system were taken to an 89-word pro-Iranian message that stood in favor of the recent election and warned US President Barack Obama to stay out of Iranian affairs.

"We never cheated in elections," the Web site said.

Diane Saunders, spokeswoman for the university's Web system, told the Associated Press that the hackers were able to gain control of the site because of third-party software that had not been updated.

However, Saunders said the computers of visitors to the site were not compromised and no malicious software was installed on users' hard drives.

"It's a bit like graffiti on the subway," Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant with computer software firm Sophos, told the AP.

"Web sites that aren't properly protected are like blank subway walls. Hackers can come by and spray their political messages."

Many Iranians continue to believe that the recent elections were rigged, which has sparked rampant rebellion across the nation.

The outrage has inspired some Iranians to call on supporters to attack government sites by using software to barrage servers with more traffic than it can sustain.

"More and more people are kind of thinking this is acceptable behavior on the Internet," Cluley said.

"If you're clever and smart and don't do something dumb, your chances of getting caught are probably quite small."

Hackers appear to be using easy to find software to search out Web systems that have weaknesses that make them easy to exploit.

Saunders told the AP that the university is currently investigating the attack to try to determine the source. However, that may be difficult as it is relatively easy for hackers to cover their tracks online.


Image Caption: Iranian riot police clash with two women as they gather on the streets to protest the results of the Iranian presidential election in Tehran, Iran on June 20, 2009. (UPI Photo)


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