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Hacker hijinks impinge on US mid-term elections

Kissing babies, spreading worms, and linking to dodgy MySpace profiles

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Forthcoming US mid-term elections have been disrupted by hackers. The website of Ted and Fran Gianoutsos, a husband and wife team running for governor and lieutenant governor in Alaska, was infected by a computer worm last week.

The website of the write-in candidates, tedandfran.com, was infected by the Gedza-A worm in an apparent prank that meant officially sanctioned campaign promises were replaced by pictures of Canadian songstress Avril Lavigne.

"It's fairly innocuous other than the fact it tries to change your home page to an Avril Lavigne picture that is sitting out there on a server somewhere," Webmaster David Molletti told News.com. "So it's a nuisance thing, but it was plugged in there."

After cleaning the site last week, the site was reinfected on Monday in a move that meant visitors to the site were warned that it was harbouring malware. The site was later hosed down and rebuilt with changed admin passwords. Ted Gianoutsos, who doesn't have access to an internet connection himself only became aware of the hack after he received phone calls from irate users.

The attack hasn't been all bad news, however. Gianoutsos concedes that the assault has thrown the spotlight on his campaign, which features the controversial policies of opening up Alaska's wildlife refuges to oil and gas exploration, and reducing health care costs for Alaskans, particularly military veterans.

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Elsewhere, the MySpace web page of San Jose council candidate Sam Liccardo was altered so his friends profile included wannabe gang members, young men and women in various states of undress, and people who used their forum on MySpace to make homophobic or racist rants, or contained references to drug abuse.

The "Sam Liccardo for City Council 2006" MySpace profile was created by a campaign volunteer as a way to reach out to young voters. Liccardo, whose early career included prosecuting child abuse cases, was shocked by the unauthorised changes and acted to have the site shut down. He's asked MySpace to investigate what happened to his site which was, in theory, supposed to be screened by campaign volunteers. Liccardo suspects either a hacker he'd previously prosecuted or a political opponent was behind the attack.

"I prosecute internet crimes against children," Liccardo told the Mercury News. "This fits the pattern of defendants I know who are computer savvy." ®

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