It's been a bad week for fans of Norm Coleman, the former Minnesota senator who lost a whisker-thin election to ex-"Saturday Night Live" comic/Air America radio host/Mad Magazine contributor Al Franken. (Technically, Coleman is still fighting a recount battle and may still be fighting it six years from now when the seat comes back up for re-election.)
Some 4,700 unlucky donors to the Coleman senate campaign have had their credit card numbers leaked on the Internet, and another 51,000 supporters got their names, addresses, e-mail, and passwords exposed. The data has been out in the wild for at least six weeks, and now that Wikileaks has gotten its fingerprint-free hands on them, everybody can have at it.
The key culprits? Why, the Coleman campaign itself. And therein lies a tale.
News of the wide-open database first hit the Net on Jan. 28, thanks to a Minneapolis-based consultant named Adria Richards, who posted a screen shot of the open Colemanforsenate.com directory on Flickr. She details the process of how she found the open database (in less than two minutes) on her But You're a Girl blog. (She says, however, that she did not download it.)
On that same day, the Coleman campaign claimed its Web site had been overwhelmed by traffic and taken offline. Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan implied the crash was related to "the Franken campaign’s ongoing effort to quash votes."
According to tech wonks contacted by the Minnesota Independent, that doesn't seem to be what actually happened. Blogger Aaron Landry even accused the Coleman campaign of faking the site crash: "In short, they have configured their website to intentionally point at nothing," he wrote.