Taleban Site Hacked

Taleban Site Hacked

Max Smetannikov

A Web site allegedly hosting Taleban-related information was hacked

overnight, crippling the organization’s communications and re-opening

debate about whether national security concerns outweigh the right to

Web-based free speech.

A hacker who left an e-mail contact with a Russian Federation domain

defaced www.taleban.com, replacing the site with his handle and several

obscene messages surrounding a grainy photograph of Islamic extremist Osama

bin Laden. Bin Laden and his vast international network are reportedly

prime suspects in Tuesday’s attacks on the World Trade Center towers and

the Pentagon.

The Web site is registered to the New York-based Taleban Mission to

the United Nations. Like many other phone numbers in New York, the phone

number to the Taleban Mission was not working, likely because of overloaded

circuits. The hack apparently crippled organization’s e-mail

communications.

The site, hosted by Atlanta-based Interland, was being taken down this

morning because it is “in violation of our abuse policy,” said Barbara

Gibson, the company’s vice president of public relations.

Interland was recently purchased by Micron Electric, which runs a large Web hosting

operation focused on small and medium-sized enterprises under the HostPro

brand. The company hosts about 230,000 business-class Web sites and claims

about 130,000 customers.

“When this issue was raised before, at the time, the content of the site

did not violate any laws and we didn’t have any legal reason to take it

down,” Gibson said. “But we continued to keep an eye on it from time to

time. Today we are taking it down.”

Gibson said the site had been hacked, but could not say whether content

generated by its owners had changed to place it in violation of U.S. laws.

“I have no more information,” she said.

Executives of other Web hosting organizations expressed high concern about

Interland not removing the Taleban’s Web site earlier.

Patrick Sweeney, president and CEO of ServerVault, said his company “would

not host a site that supports any terrorist group, much less the

most-wanted terrorist in the free world,” bin Laden.

ServerVault is a Web hoster with a high emphasis on security and many

law-enforcement customers.

“If I were Interland, I would immediately take [www.taleban.com] down, out

of respect for those killed by recent acts of terrorism. Whether or not

they were propagated by the Taleban-supported groups is irrelevant, the

fact that a technology company is providing a platform to further the work

and communication of that group is intolerable,” Sweeney said. “Profiting

from an organization like Taleban, which supports a man who formally

declared war against the U.S. in a 1998 statement, an organization which

denies women the right to vote, attend school or even have access to public

health care is, in essence, taking blood money.”

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in eWEEK.