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Tory Party site ‘practically unhardened’ – a hacker playground

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The UK Conservative Party has been slammed for Internet naivety after it emerged that it hadn't taken even the most basic precautions to secure its Web server.

The site, Conservatives.com, surely a top target for crackers in the run-up to the UK general election on June 7, was left insecure to the extent that any file on its NT server was browsable.

Failure to apply security patches dating back well over a year, and covering flaws in Microsoft's IIS 4 server, meant the site has been left as a potential playground for s'kiddies.

Details of the many holes in the Tories security emerged after an anonymous hacker posted the results of a scan of the site to a Usenet discussion forum. The hacker, Killingtime, also published details of vulnerabilities present on the site on his home page.

Killingtime said he ran a scan of the Conservatives site after becoming irritated by a Tory election broadcast, which featured a prominent mention of the site's address.

He found a series of vulnerabilities, including a remote file browsing flaw, which could allow access to private files or database entries on the server to anyone with a browser. Left uncorrected these flaws mean, according to Killingtime, that it's "only a matter of time before their Web site is defaced".

Killingtime also questioned how the Tories could be trusted with the security of the country if they can't even secure their own Web server.

Richard Stagg, senior security architect at Information Risk Management, confirmed Killingtime's assessment that the site was insecure. He said the server was "practically unhardened" with even basic security patches and consequently vulnerable to even old exploits.

Stagg said the Tories had failed to follow Microsoft's advice on how to protect the Web server, which he described as particularly naive given the site is such a likely target for defacement.

The only good news for the Conservatives is that, according to Stagg, fixing the site will take relatively little work. He advised the Conservatives to review Microsoft's guide to securing IIS web servers. Good advice we hope the Tories will heed.

We contacted the Conservatives this morning to tell them of the problems with their site and to pass on Stagg's advice. We also told them we'd hold off publishing the story until 1700. Being generous, we gave them till then in GMT rather than BST. But given the urgency and the fact that it's already out in the circles that are most threatening, they'll have got it bolted down well before then. Right? ®

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