Anonymous hacks church Web site during live interview

Defiant Westboro Baptist Church says Anonymous had to try 'mightily' to hack its site

The Anonymous hacking collective this morning defaced the Web site of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in the middle of a live radio show that included a church spokeswoman and a member of Anonymous.

The defacement came just days after Anonymous issued a statement saying that it had no plans to attack the Church's Web site. The statement had noted that an earlier letter said to be from the group that threatened online attacks on the church site was a hoax.

Members of the WBC church are known for their strident anti-gay views and for protests at funerals of slain military personnel and others. Last week it issued a letter challenging Anonymous to "bring it."

The Anonymous member on the radio show today said it felt compelled to attack because of what it claimed was the church's belligerent response to the hoax letter. "We had enough. We responded maturely. We said no, we don't want war," the Anonymous member said during the discussion on the David Pakman multiplatform politics and news talk show.

Prior to today's attacks, WBC's sites were offline for several days. That outage appears to have been caused by a distributed denial of service attack launched by a hacker called The Jester.

A note posted by Anonymous on the newly defaced WBC site this morning said that the church's "recent antics to gain media attention," had caused the group to lose patience with the church. "Despite having the capability to hack your sites previously, we chose not to," the note said.

It also showed a map of the entire internal network of the church.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, a spokeswoman for the Topeka-based church, today downplayed the attack against its Web site by Anonymous.

Anonymous had been trying to break into the site for several days and had met with little success until today, she contended. "What they did was break into one server. They tried mightily for four days. They got nothing," Phelps-Roper said.

She added the attack appears to have been planned and made to look like a spontaneous hack. "I'm sure they worked it all out before," she said.

A Twitter message posted by Anonymous following this morning's hack appeared to suggest that the WBC break-in may have been a little more difficult for it than the high-profile one it pulled against California security firm HBGary a few weeks ago.

"#WBC was more leet than #HBGary," the Twitter message noted. "It took #Anonymous a 0day to get in their network, not some public SQL."

Following this morning's attacks, the church has taken all of its sites offline and is working on securing them, Phelps-Roper said.

Anonymous has also been in the news quite a bit for coordinating DDoS attacks in connection with WikiLeaks disclosures and recent civil unrest in Egypt and elsewhere.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

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