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Hacking Incident Makes Government Websites Inaccessible

In the first week of February 2008, hackers banged into several Websites of the Northern Ireland government, as reported by BBC News on February 12, 2008.

The sites hacked include that of the Planning Service, which publishes information on planning policies being implemented in 26 council regions of Northern Ireland and The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. These sites remained inaccessible for several days while investigation of the attack continued.

Officials at the Department of Environment (DoE) said that hackers compromised the server that enabled them to access the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) Website files. The hack, in addition, allowed the scammers to get hold of the File Transfer Protocol or FTP username and password by employing a keylogger.

Arlene Foster, the Minister for Environment, said that the hacking incident caused much worry. The hacker appears to have brought down the systems of Stormont's Information Technology Shared Services Center, which the Department of Regional Development and DoE use along with many others, as reported by BBC News on February 12, 2008.

Foster also said that she came to know about the breach only on the night of February 11, 2008.

Besides, the DoE officials said that during the weekend of February 2-3, 2008, hackers attempted to attack Web server that the IT Shared Service Center of the Northern Ireland Civil Services owned and operated to host various government Websites.

It is, however, believed that no information has been damaged or lost as a result of the incident, which was the latest among many at national and local levels, disturbing government hold of information. Also, the Website for the Planning Service has been restored.

The code planted on the server of the hacked site seemed to link to a Turkish server that redirected visitors towards the BBC Website. The server would also occasionally install a malicious JavaScript payload or anything its author wished.

Finjan, a security vendor, also confirmed that the hack was genuine. Chief Technology Officer, Yuval Ben-Itzhak, Finjan, said that the exploit made use of a hidden JavaScript, matching the trend the company highlighted in its report on Web security back in the fourth quarter of 2006, as reported by ComputerWorld s on February 11, 2008.

Related article: Hacking Attacks Are Increasing to Haunt Banks

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