"Hackers" defaced the United Nations Web site early Sunday with messages accusing the U.S. and Israel of killing children. As of late afternoon, some sections, including the area devoted to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, remained offline.
The attack, spelled out by an Italian software developer on his blog and later reported by the BBC, replaced blurbs of recent speeches by Ban with the following text, which was attributed to a trio of would-be hackers:
HACKED BY KEREM125 M0STED AND GSY
THAT IS CYBERPROTEST HEY ÝSRAIL AND USA
DONT KILL CHILDREN AND OTHER PEOPLE
PEACE FOR EVER
The section of the U.N.'s site dedicated to Ban was still offline as of 5 p.m. Eastern time Sunday. It sported a message reading: "This site will be temporarily unavailable due to scheduled maintenance."
Giorgio Maone, a software developer from Palermo, Italy, noted the incident timeline and posted several screenshots of the defacement on his blog. Maone pegged the attack as a SQL injection exploit, which let the attackers add their own HTML code to the site. SQL injection attacks are a common tactic by defacers and have been used against numerous government and commercial sites worldwide. In June, Microsoft's U.K. Web site was defaced by an SQL injection.
"There's a technical reason for the missing apostrophe [in DON'T], though, because messing with this very character (') is part of the technique apparently used by the attackers," said Maone in his blog post Sunday. "The [U.N.'s] site is vulnerable to [SQL injection] attack … this is a very well known kind of vulnerability, fairly easy to avoid and very surprising to find in such a high-profile site.
"Moreover, the hole seems not to be patched yet, thus the site could be defaced again at will," Maone added.
In the past, "Kerem125," "m0sted" and "gsy," are names that have been used by would-be hackers claiming to be from Turkey, said the BBC. An Australian insurance company, for example, had its site defaced in late July by a group that included kerem125.
The U.N. could not be reached Sunday for comment.
While defacing Web sites is common, large-scale attacks have been rare. Last year, however, nearly 1,000 Danish sites were defaced by Islamic attackers who protested controversial cartoons that featured the Prophet Mohammed. And in 2001, a month-long defacement dustup raged between Chinese and U.S. entities after a U.S. spy plane was forced down by Chinese fighters.