Anti-gay site goes back to rightful owners
August 23, 1999
By D. Ian Hopper
As slowly as it came, the road to love veered back to hate on an anti-gay Web site run by Pastor Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.
Last Wednesday, domain name registrar Network Solutions’ Internic directory was fooled to associate the godhatesfags.com domain name with the server containing godlovesfags.com, a pro-gay site.
Kris Haight, a systems administrator at Sugar-River.Net, a New Hampshire Internet service provider, still maintains that he did not make the change himself, and was the beneficiary of a still-anonymous hacker. His site received about 70,000 page views after the switch, which had only received a total of 7,500 page views prior to Wednesday.
Haight finally relinquished the name on Friday, after pressure from his employer and his employer’s service provider, a larger Internet provider which sells connectivity to the smaller ISP. According to Haight, a lawyer from the Phelps organization contacted the larger provider, Destek Networking Group of Nashua, New Hampshire, and threatened action. Destek then contacted Haight.
Haight then attempted to contact Phelps, leaving a message telling Phelps to check his e-mail for a notice from Internic that the domain name was pointed back to the original host server.
Phelps' organization refused to confirm the call to Destek, and continued to downplay the incident. “It hasn’t hurt us one iota,” said Shirley Phelps-Roper, Fred Phelps’ daughter and a lawyer for the organization. “It demonstrated to the world that fags are what we said they are. These experiences confirm what the scripture says about them. They are lawless; nothing is sacred with them.”
T. Parsinnen, owner of Sugar-River.Net and Haight’s employer, said he knew nothing of the change until after it happened. “We received an e-mail giving a server change to godhatesfags, “ Parsinnen explained, “But I didn’t notice anything in particular. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s Kris’s domain, I don’t have to do anything about it.’ It was so close that it didn’t register to me what it actually was.”
The next day, Kris told him what he did. “I said, ‘You’re going to have to give that back,’ and he said he would.”
Parssinen said he doesn’t anticipate any legal action and will continue to host the godlovesfags Web site. Haight is leaving the company for another job opportunity. According to Parssinen, it’s just in time. “To demonstrate to everybody that we had nothing to do with what took place, we would have been forced to terminate his employment.”
A mystery remains, though. Who made the switch?
Parssinen said he doesn’t think Haight knew how to do it himself, and Haight refuses to give any more information about the e-mail that told him to watch for the switch, other than it was from an anonymous remailer. There’s plenty of speculation, however, ranging from a Phelps ploy to sabotage himself in order to get more media attention, to a result of the recent Chaos Communication Camp in Germany, to a challenge made to hackers to reassign a set of domain names.
Nevertheless, Network Solutions spokesperson Nancy Huddleston said that there are three levels of domain name security, and relatively few choose the highest level, password encryption. With that level, this sort of domain redirection wouldn’t have been nearly as easy to do. “We just sent another alert to our users telling them about the three levels of security,” Huddleston said.
Even with more security, it seems almost inevitable that high-profile and controversial sites will continue to be a prime target for attention-hungry hackers. Phelps-Roper has resigned herself to that fact, reporting that the godhatesfags site has been a target many times before, usually with denial-of-service attacks.
“You know there’s 365 days in a year,” Phelps-Roper said, “If we’re down 3, we’re still up the rest. We don’t really care.”
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