Texas governor blames Web campaign flop on hackers

But an error message may have been caused by a technical glitch

The kick-off for Texas Governor Rick Perry's 2010 re-election campaign was marred Tuesday by a Web site outage that staffers are now calling a denial-of-service attack.

Perry had invited supporters to visit his campaign Web site at 11:30 a.m. Central time on Tuesday to attend a 10-minute online rally billed as "Talkin' Texas." Instead, site visitors were rebuffed with a computer error message.

"Today's 'Talkin' Texas' Webcast by Gov. Perry was deliberately interrupted by a denial-of-service attack, preventing countless users from logging in to view the Governor's remarks," the Perry campaign said in a note posted to its Web site.

"This planned and coordinated attack was political sabotage, and we are working to identify those responsible for this illegal activity."

Before the site crashed, more than 22,000 visitors were able to access the event, the Perry campaign said.

But according to local coverage of the incident, the outage did not entirely resemble a distributed denial-of-service attack, (DDoS) which renders the server extremely slow or inaccessible to most visitors.

Instead, Austin's KXAN reported that the site displayed the message "Unable to connect to database server," generated by the Drupal content-management platform.

Although he is not familiar with the particulars of Tuesday's outage, Trend Micro security researcher Rick Ferguson said that the Drupal message appeared to indicate that the Perry server was misconfigured rather than attacked via DDoS.

Drupal would not have been accessible during a successful DDoS attack, he said via instant message. "If it was a DDoS, you'd never even get to the main page."

According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, however, the Perry campaign's Internet service provider said that it was hit by what's known as a SYN Flood DDoS attack.

Politicians are often quick to blame hackers for technical glitches. During the 2006 Connecticut Democratic Senate primary Joseph Lieberman blamed a Web outage on an attack by supporters of his opponent, Ned Lamont.

An investigation into the matter found that Lieberman's server had failed because it was overutilized and misconfigured.

Perry replaced former Texas governor George W. Bush, following his presidential election in 2000. He is seeking his third full term as governor.

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Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
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