Hackers broke into the Amnesty International home page over the weekend, altering it with a highly stylized, futuristic-looking graphic of a small child or baby smoking a cigarette.
Amnesty International didn't know what the perpetrators wanted to accomplish with the hacking, which was strikingly apolitical considering the political nature of the target. Above the picture, the altered Web page read, "Who laughs last? We are the 4 man dream team, just proving one of many points."
But just what those points were was lost on many, not the least of whom was Mike Blackstock, the system administrator for Ontario Internet Link, the small Canadian Internet service provider that hosts the Amnesty site for free.
"As far as I can tell, they didn't do anything malicious," he said. "They replaced one page of Amnesty with a silly graphic of a kid smoking. This was not political as far as I could tell. The only politics I could think of was cigarettes."
Beneath the picture, the page is signed, "Thanx to: so1o, modeX, XFli, mstrhelix...CodeZero uber alles!"
This hack appears to be unrelated to other recent high-profile incidents, including one last week in which a Portuguese group broke in to Indonesian government Web pages to protest its treatment of East Timor. In that case, the hackers--referred to by many as "crackers" because they crack into systems--were quite clear about the reasons behind their action.
In the case of the Amnesty page, Blackstone said the hackers only altered the Web page and did not cause major damage, though they could have done so if they wanted to. The altered page was up for a few hours, he said.
Blackstone was busy plugging the security hole but pointed out that sites much bigger with higher profiles, such as the Air Force, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Justice Department, also have been hacked.