Barack Obama's website was not hacked

The story that Barack Obama's web site was hacked is not true.

It is critical that Internet users be skeptical. In fact, skepticism may be more important than any anti-malware software.

The latest illustration of this was an April Fools joke pulled by Emmanuel Goldstein and the gang at 2600. As they explained on their show, Off The Hook, on WBAI in New York, they started by hiding the true ownership of one of their domains.

When a domain, such as hope.net (the one used in the joke) is registered, the person or organization that pays for it, identifies themselves in a public directory known as WhoIs. Some registrars offer a privacy service, where they instead register the domain in their name, preventing the general public from learning the true owner of the domain.

Then they tried to publicize the fact that their hope.net site was connected with Barack Obama, playing up his campaign theme of hope. Hope, in this case, really stands for Hackers On Planet Earth and is the name of the convention run by 2600.

They went so far as to re-direct their hope.net site to Obama's real website for a period of time (for more on this, see One Web site, many names: an introduction to domain forwarding). Then they made a phony copy of the real site, scribbled all over it and added links to Hilary Clinton's web site.

CNET didn't run the story, but others did, not to mention the 84 votes the story got on Digg.

Wonkette: Obama Site Hacked?. "A super-secret Wonkette operative informs us that Obama's campaign recently purchased Hope.net and was set to launch the site before getting foiled by MALICIOUS HACKERS ... We are not cybersleuths here, but it sort of looks like this domain does indeed belong to Obama for America."

Comedy Central's Indecision2008: Barack Obama's Website Assassinated "As if we needed another reason to doubt Barack Obama's ability to keep us safe from insomniac Islamofascists, at appears that now he can't even keep his website safe from cyber-terrorists..."

SayAnything: Barack Obama's New Website Hacked, Redirected To Hillary Clinton's Site. "Apparently Barack Obama's campaign recently registered the domain "Hope.net," presumably to finally explain to everyone what we're all supposed to be hoping for. But unfortunately for Obama, the website has been hacked and all the links redirected to Hillary Clinton's campaign website."

Off The Hook runs for an hour, but you can listen to the 14-minute discussion of their joke here.

It's an excellent exercise in skepticism.

See a summary of all my Defensive Computing postings.

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About the author

    Michael Horowitz wrote his first computer program in 1973 and has been a computer nerd ever since. He spent more than 20 years working in an IBM mainframe (MVS) environment. He has worked in the research and development group of a large Wall Street financial company, and has been a technical writer for a mainframe software company.

    He teaches a large range of self-developed classes, the underlying theme being Defensive Computing. Michael is an independent computer consultant, working with small businesses and the self-employed. He can be heard weekly on The Personal Computer Show on WBAI.

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