The embarrassing lapse in computer security came the day after the Bush campaign launched what it described as its "innovative new design" for its Internet site, www.georgewbush.com.
"We have taken steps to make sure this particular problem is fixed, and we are looking at other ways to further secure the site," spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said. The campaign was considering whether to formally notify the authorities, such as the FBI, she said.
Tucker said the campaign's more sensitive computer operations -- such as its e-mail system and contribution records -- were protected on other machines and weren't believed to have been compromised.
The hackers replaced a news story about Bush on the Web site with a note that "the success or failure of the working class to achieve victory depends upon a revolution [of] leadership."
|The vandalized site.|
A review of the Bush Internet site showed files that computer experts recommend deleting for security reasons were plainly visible. One of those files includes instructions for users to edit Web pages on the site.
"It means to me there is no security policy for this site," said Russ Cooper, a specialist who runs the popular NTBugtraq discussion group on the Internet to expose security problems. "It's typically unfortunate that a lot of these people do not take the time to protect themselves from this kind of embarrassment."
Another expert, Weld Pond, said there was "no question" that the Bush campaign neglected to remove these remnants of computer code, which made the site vulnerable.
"That's probably how they got in," said Pond, a consultant with L0pht Heavy Industries of Boston. "The fact that there are these sample files on there is pretty problematic, meaning they didn't take much effort to secure it."
Tucker said the campaign's own investigation found that the altered Web page was accessible by the public for fewer than five minutes before a backup system kicked in and restored the vandalized text with a fresh copy.
"The image wasn't subtle," said Jeremy Pinnix, a director at a Nashville, Tenn., design company who captured a snapshot of the vndalized Web site. He said he notified the Bush campaign immediately, but "they didn't really seem too worried."