- PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY STEVE E. MILLER
- SCREEN TROUBLE : Hackers hit a couple of local web sites recently, putting their brief message against a mostly black screen in place of home pages for the City of San Luis Obispo and The Cakery.
# Sometime between Aug. 1 and 2, the city of San Luis Obispo's gateway website slocity.org was hacked and temporarily hijacked.
It might be tempting to read a political message into the target, except that local bakery The Cakery's website www.slocakery.com was also attacked. In each case, the attackers left in place a message stating that their cyber crew "is breaking your security" and that "hack is not a crime."
On that last count, the group of computer pirates/baked goods antagonists could be misinformed.
"This is called website defacement, and this is the equivalent to spray painting the doorway of a business for a hacker," said Ryan Matteson, Cal Poly's technical security officer. "Often, for groups of hackers, this sort of thing is much like a kid in a street gang that vandalizes something and they tell their friends to look at it."
A quick Internet search for the hackers' screen names found numerous references describing their mission as "hacking for peace."
Such hacks usually occur when there's a vulnerability in a website like some sort of hole or door that's unintentionally written in by a website programmer, Matteson said. He added that this attack could have been caused by anyone in the world and that the hackers may not have been targeting the city of SLO or The Cakery, but rather running a program to search for vulnerable websites.
According to Matteson, this kind of cyber attack is decreasing and is usually made by inexperienced hackers whose motive is to gain recognition by showcasing their abilities. Other times similar tactics are used to bring attention to a specific cause, cultural or religious group, or political view.
Matteson said that most of today's hacking is about making money.
According to Carolyn Dominguez, the City of San Luis Obispo's finance manager, there was no real damage caused by the hacking other than the additional cost of staff time to verify that all of the website's connections were safe.
"Nothing was compromised, all our links were secure," she said. "They really got nowhere beyond the front page."
Yarrow Morse, owner of The Cakery, said she was unaware of her website's recent alteration until she received a phone call from New Times.
"I'm speechless," she said. "It's obviously the height of disrespect it's rude to say the least."
The San Luis Obispo Police Department is investigating the matter.