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RealTime IT News

The Changing Face of Web Sites

[SOUTH AFRICA] What do Renault, Computicket and Statistics South Africa have in common? They are all South African sites that have been defaced at some point this year.

Other companies that had a brief but startling make-over this year include Nintendo South Africa, World Online and the Institute for Marketing Management.

While damaging to a company's image and a headache for the administrator, site defacement is a relatively benign form of computer crime. If your site merely gets defaced, with no information stolen or viruses introduced into your system, count yourself lucky.

For example, a credit card verification company, CreditCards.com, was cracked by a possibly East European hacker, who stole 60,000 credit card numbers and tried to extort money from the company. When the company refused to give in to the blackmail, he posted the numbers on the net and contacted press and customers.

And no-one's forgotten the 12 day Microsoft crack. But this kind of computer crime is more akin to espionage and burglary than site defacement.

Site defacement is a statement, typically describing the prowess of the hacker; but as the net advances it is becoming a powerful political tool. Hacktivists defaced both Republican and Democratic Web sites in the U.S. And in the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict, hackers and crackers are defacing Web sites on both sides with political messages.

The Internet has introduced a powerful means of information dissemination into the hands of the public. You don't have to deface a site in order to protest -you can set up a site that delivers your point of view. But if you can deface a popular site, you gain instant publicity, delivering your message, whatever it is, by piggybacking on the work done by the unfortunate entity.

For those who'd like to see what hackers/crackers do to Web sites, defaced pages are mirrored at Attrition.org. They also provide statistics and breakdown per country.