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Officials probe Lieberman site crash

U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman's campaign Web site remained offline Thursday, and federal and state authorities were investigating why it crashed on the eve of this week's defeat in a high-profile primary.
/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman's campaign Web site remained offline Thursday, and federal and state authorities were investigating why it crashed on the eve of this week's defeat in a high-profile primary.

The site,, appeared to have suffered from a so-called "denial of service" attack, in which computers overwhelm a site with fake traffic, preventing real visitors from getting through or, in this case, causing it to crash, said Richard M. Smith, an Internet security consultant in Brookline, Mass.

Lieberman said the outage is hindering efforts to raise campaign money.

"But of course that's the world we live in, that anybody, anywhere in the world, if able to, can hack into another site anywhere else in the world," Lieberman said Thursday while visiting Waterbury.

The Lieberman campaign denied speculation among liberal Web pundits that the centrist Democrat's Web site had simply crashed because it used a low-budget Web host unable to handle the volume.

Web hosting can cost anywhere from a few dollars a month for a personal Web site to thousands of dollars for large corporate sites.

The campaign spends about $100 to $150 a month on Web hosting services with MyHostCamp, said Dan Geary, who administers the site for the campaign. Geary said that MyHostCamp, which is owned by a friend of Geary's, gave the site more than enough bandwidth — 200 gigabytes a month — to handle a crush of visitors.

He said an analysis of the server suggested an attack that focused on specific components of the Web site such as internal files and e-mail.

But Smith said that even if there's enough capacity, as important is the amount of security it has to keep intruders out.

"There are measures that can be implemented to protect against this type of attack," Smith said. "I think they went a little cheap here. This kind of looked like a low-budget hosting service."

Geary insists security was adequate, saying MyHostCamp's servers are monitored by a larger company, Server Matrix, and administered by a major Web hosting company, The Planet.

"Was it the greatest security ever? Well it just got hacked so, no," Geary said. "But we had industry-standard security. We could stop bows and arrows and bullets, but not a tank, and that's what this attack was."

Joseph E. Horzepa, general counsel for The Planet, said he could not comment on specific customer issues, but said the company was "very sensitive to security."

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the state is investigating, along with the FBI.

"The state has computer forensic expects, both in the state police and elsewhere," he said. "We have some expertise and federal authorities have very impressive resources. I am very optimistic that ultimately any wrongdoer will be apprehended."

Denial-of-service attacks are hard to trace, though, because they often commandeer computers infected with certain viruses. Owners usually have no idea their computer is even accessing the Web site.

Geary said the campaign is moving the site to another server and working on increasing security. He could not say when the site might be back online.

He added that online donations were run by another company and that donor information was not compromised.

Lieberman is running as an independent after losing Tuesday's Democratic primary to Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont by about 10,000 votes.

Visitors to the site Thursday received a message that read in part: "We call on Ned Lamont to make an unqualified statement denouncing this kind of dirty campaign trick and to demand whoever is responsible to cease and desist immediately."

Lamont and his campaign have already done that, said Liz Dupont-Diehl, the campaign's spokeswoman.

"We also offered our assistance to the Lieberman campaign to help them resolve their technical problems and even offered to host their site so it would not remain down," she said.

Geary acknowledged that he has no idea who hacked into the site.

Late Thursday afternoon, the message on the site had been changed to, "Watch for our re-launch — and thanks for coming by!"

The site also was attacked by hackers a month ago. They were able to replace Lieberman's page with one that said, "We ownz u site."