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U.K. hackers deface 500 Web sites

July 9, 1998
Web posted at: 10:24 AM ET

by Patrick Thibodeau

(IDG) -- The hackers who managed to deface some 500 Web sites hosted by a London hosting service may have left clues that could lead police to them, according to the firm's owner.

At least that's what Erik Young, a partner in the company, Easyspace Ltd., said. Young has spent the past four days repairing damage caused by Thursday's attack.

"The police are very interested in catching these people, and we're pretty sure we located one of them," Young said in an interview today.

Young said his Web hosting service, which has about 40,000 customers, became vulnerable after he temporarily outsourced some technical work. Hackers managed to use software to "sniff" or capture passwords that allowed them root access privileges, he said.

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Once inside Easyspace's system, the hackers accessed one of the company's U.S.-based Web hosting servers and indiscriminately replaced the "index.html" files, which contain user home pages, with their own files. These new home pages contained political messages about the nuclear arms race between Pakistan and India, as well as links to Antionline, a Web site that reports on hacker activities. "It certainly isn't the way to get across a political statement," Young said. "If you're a real political force, you'd have the acumen and decency to express your views on your own Web site rather than stealing other peoples' space," he added.

Although the damage was confined to one server, Young said his company had to reinstall the operating system to guard against the possibility that viruses had been planted in the system. New user names and passwords were mailed today to customers hit by the hack, Young said.

Young said he had been meeting with police, and said he believes one of the hackers "had been a little bit too foolhardy" in making some comments "that clearly indicate his whereabouts ... and I'm pretty sure I know exactly where he is."

The hackers responsible are based in the U.S. and in the U.K., he said.

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