Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lieberman incident confirmed as hacking

The Lieberman campaign confirm that they were taken out by a hacker. In addition to taking out the site itself the hacker deleted email lists and disrupted the Lieberman get out the vote effort.

If true a very bad thing indeed. The point of elections is to convince politicians to hand over power peacefully. That only works if the losers recognize the legitimacy of the process. If Lieberman loses he may point to the hacking effort as a pretext to support his proposed independent run.

We need to find a way to support political campaign sites that provides the highest levels of availability and security without raising the cost to unacceptable levels.

In 1992 I saw the Web as a potential tool to change politics from being money based to being citizen based. The Web allows candidates to reach the electorate directly, to talk in prose rather than soundbites and to have a dialogue with their supporters and potential supporters. Above all the Web allows a candidate with a $100 campaign budget and plenty of volunteers reach people through the Web as effectively as a candidate with a $10 million campaign budget.

1992 was the first year in which a major political campaign had an official Internet presence. The Clinton-Gore campaign run by Jock Gill may not have had a major impact on the outcome of the election but it set the pattern for the Internet campaigns that have followed.

During the 2004 campaign the Democrats used the Web to address what they percieved to be their major vulnerability - their funding disadvantage. Meanwhile the Republicans realized that the Web and Tivo have created a new dynamic where the money no longer matters. Howard Dean proved that in his campaign for the Presidential nomination, never has so much money been spent on a campaign in such a short time with so little result.

During the last campaign we saw phishing attacks against campaign contributors. Now we are seeing hacking and DDoS attacks. We have to solve these problems in a way that does not create a new money barrier.

Update: The Lieberman campaign was on a low budget hosting plan. While the figure $15 is probably spin future campaigns that are spending millions a month on TV campaign ads should probably consider $1000/mo a minimum budget for their hosting services and look for specialist providers who have very large capacity pipes.

Update2: Turns out that the Lieberman campaign paid their Web consultant $1,500 last quarter which does not give him a lot to spend on bandwidth and pay himself (Kos spends $7K each month).

Update3: The state site hosting the results is currently overwhelmed by demand as well.

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