FBI, Senate Web Sites Hacked

W A S H I N G T O N,   May 28, 2001 -- Internet sites for the FBI and the Senate remained inaccessible today after hackers launched a series of electronic attacks against some state and federal government computers.

Hackers defaced the Senate’s Web page Thursday before it was taken down, and another group claimed responsibility for defacing a Virginia state government Web site that remained altered today.

A message left on the Virginia site announced, “We think it’s payback time now.”

The FBI said it took down its own Web site after the bureau found that hackers tried unsuccessfully to compromise it.

FBI Site May Remain Down

FBI spokeswoman Debbie Weyerman said it was unclear when the FBI site might be made available again but might not be until the weekend or early next week.

“We doubt it’s going to be today,” she said.

The attack did not affect the FBI’s internal e-mail or other computer systems, she said, adding there was no evidence whether the hack on the Senate Web site was related to the FBI’s problems.

Weyerman said the FBI’s Web server computer suffered a denial-of-service attack, a common technique in which the computer was overwhelmed with repeated electronic requests — like a telephone ringing so continuously that it blocks other callers.

Group Claims Revenge

An obscene message left briefly on the Senate’s Web site blamed the attack on what it said was the FBI’s harassment of specific hacker groups, including the group that boasted of breaking into the White House site earlier this month.

“Who laughs last?” the message said in part, adding that the intent was to rebuke “our friends at the FBI.”

Sherry Little, a spokeswoman for the Senate Sergeant at Arms, which operates the Senate site, said technical experts met today with the FBI “to resolve the problem to get the Web site back up and to figure out what security measures need to be put in place to prevent a reoccurence.”

Little said the Senate shut down its own site shortly before 8 p.m. Thursday, but she couldn’t say when the site might be made available again.

Only Senate Web Pages Crippled

The Senate’s e-mail and other systems also were not affected, she said, although the attack on the “Senate.Gov” site also crippled the Web sites for individual senators.

The Senate was not in session today.

Other federal Web sites, including those for the White House and the House of Representatives, appeared to be operating normally.

MSNBC reported that the attacks stemmed from the FBI’s execution of a search warrant on a prominent hacker’s home in Houston.

Centered Around Houston Hacker

FBI spokesman Rolando Moss confirmed that agents were investigating allegations of computer intrusions involving the Houston hacker. The FBI executed four search warrants that remained sealed, Moss said.

Earlier this month, a grand jury in northern Virginia indicted Eric Burns, 19, on three counts of computer intrusion. Burns is reportedly known on the Internet as “Zyklon” and is believed to be a member of the group that claimed responsibility for the attacks on the White House and Senate sites.

“Zyklon” was one of a dozen names listed on the hacked version of the White House Web site, which was altered overnight Sunday for a few minutes before government computers automatically detected the intrusion.

Burns was accused of breaking into a computer used by the U.S. Information Agency between August 1998 and January 1999. The grand jury also said Burns broke into two other computers, one owned by LaserNet of Fairfax, Va., and the other by Issue Dynamics Inc. of Washington.