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Senate Leader scraps website war poll, blaming hackers

"Tampering" or the wrong result?

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Senate majority leader Bill Frist has yanked a "Bomb Iraq" poll from his website.

Frist's office told The Register that "tampering" was to blame for the removal of the poll, which asked "Should the United States use force to remove Saddam Hussein from power? Your opinion is important to Senator Frist."

"Clever computer programmers created a program that generated 8,700 votes in a day," a spokesperson told us. Which is where the mystery really begins.

The spokesperson couldn't say whether the software was running inside the firewall, representing a major breach of the Senate IT security, or was a robot-style vote generator run by netizens.

The curious thing is that Frist's poll page already banned robots - including the Wayback Machine, archive.org - from the site. Respondents could vote once and then return to the site later to change their vote; only the latest response would be counted.

"As you know government computers are constantly being attacked by hackers," he suggested.

Nor could Frist's office explain why the website administrators simply didn't exclude the votes they didn't want to count - Florida-style.

One correspondent has noted the increasing tally of No votes:-

"At 1:35 pm Washington DC time on March 6, the Frist site reported 31,118 responses to the war poll. Anti-war respondents (55%) had gained a clear majority over pro-war respondents (44.6%). (These figures do not quite add up to 100%, apparently because of the rounding method used by Senator Frist's staff.)

"Within the hour, at 2:23 pm, the anti-war fever had risen, with 56.9% anti-war, 42.9% pro-war. By 4:29 pm, according a snapshot of the Frist site, with 37, 742 total responses, the anti-war vote registered 59.5%, with the pro-war vote ebbing at 39.8%."

The Senate site has been defaced before. Whether this represents a new and more serious breach - as Frist's office suggests - we don't know.

But our enquiries continue. ®

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