Government sites defaced in US, UK and Australia

Government sites hit by Pentaguard hacking group, seemingly just to show it could be done

Government sites in the US, UK and Australia were reportedly hit by a single group of hackers Saturday in what has been described as the most systematic defacement of world-wide government servers on the Web.

According to reports on hacking news site attrition.org, the attacks occurred at the same time across three different timezones with the hackers' logo and the message "presents... the largest .gov and .mil mass defacement in the history of mankind".

The hackers, who call themselves Pentaguard, reportedly hit several UK sites including www.bseinquiry.gov.uk (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy -- Mad Cow Disease) and www.hull-lea.gov.uk (Kingston upon Hull Lea City government). US attacks included the Republican Caucus for the Californian Leglislature.

Andrew Cormaq, head of CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team), at the UK's educational network Janet says that the defacements are unlikely to indicate a serious breach at government level.

"The central government network doesn't extend to local government," he says. "Some of the sites were even hosted by ISPs. Technically it is probably quite run of the mill."

Tom Watson, senior security auditor at European security firm Defcom, says that government and military sites still have a certain allure for computer hackers. "Obviously there is a lot of kudos within the hacking community for targeting these sites. It is something of a Holy Grail."

However, Watkinson also says that hackers defacing Web sites often rely on well-known straightforward vulnerabilities that are only found on Web servers.

Pentaguard has previously claimed responsibility for defacing Chinese government sites for its occupation of Tibet, as well as government sites in Kuwait, Romania, Georgia and Vietnam. Cormaq says that this round of defacements do not appear to have been politically motivated.

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