Hackers hit New Zealand Herald website

01:43, Jan 31 2009
PWNED: The NZ Herald's website has been hit by hackers who replaced an article on the future of the internet with a parody promoting an upcoming hackers conference.

The New Zealand Herald's website fell victim to a page spoofing stunt earlier today, by hackers wanting to publicise their upcoming Kiwicon security conference in November.

"Metlstorm", one of the organisers of Kiwicon Wellington, says it's comparable to taping a fake article into a printed copy of the Herald, before giving the paper to a reader.

The bogus article was marked clearly as "a joke", he says, and contains "wildly unreasonable comment that no sane person would believe."

He is at pains to explain that the stunt is harmless and wasn't a real hack, in the sense of breaking into any systems.

Web developer Dylan Reeve of Bunker Media in Auckland says the hackers used an XSS, or cross-site scripting, bug to display their own content.

"After the page loads, the XSS bug is used to inject Javascript [a type of web-page programming language] that rewrites the article."

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The spoof doesn't work in Internet Explorer 7, but Firefox 2.0 displays the bogus page, Reeve says.

The real page loads when accessed with Internet Explorer 6 too.

"Everything you see in the page is created in the user's web browser," Reeve adds. "Nothing on the Herald server has been changed."

Herald.co.nz's multimedia editor Jeremy Rees said the incident was "a cheap visual stunt, rather than a hack".

"The people who did it did not intrude into our system."

Asked if such a stunt can be dangerous, Reeve says at worst it can trick users into believing they're seeing something on a site that isn't in reality there.

The risk is limited however, according to Reeve, who says the URL or web link address that users follow has to be formatted in a very specific way.

Earlier this month, the Computerworld newspaper, part of Fairfax Business Media, was spoofed in the same way by the Kiwicon hackers.

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