Elections website hacked; Turkish flag, words appeared

This is a screen shot of the content that appeared on the county elections site. The Free Lance has distorted foreign terminology – which had been posted on the site over the weekend – to prevent promoting the group's message.

An outside group hacked into the San Benito County elections
website in recent days by replacing the content with a Turkish flag
and foreign terminology
– prompting local officials to shut down the site’s server.
An outside group hacked into the San Benito County elections website in recent days by replacing the content with a Turkish flag and foreign terminology – prompting local officials to shut down the site’s server.

County Supervisor Margie Barrios said a resident informed her of the hacking Saturday. She asked another supervisor, Jaime De La Cruz, to confirm the foreign information was posted on the site because she didn’t have Internet access at the time. De La Cruz did so and she followed up, with Supervisor Pat Loe’s assistance, in having the content removed and the server temporarily shut down.

The content that showed up on the website, www.sbcvote.us, included the flag of Turkey. A group called “TheWayEnd” took credit for hacking the site in the message while a phrase written in Turkish is preceded by the title, “TheWayEnd Says:”.

The site was hacked at a time when its readership is relatively high due to the Nov. 2 election results. Election workers are continuing to count provisional ballots – head elections official Joe Paul Gonzalez estimated they would have been done by this past Friday – and there are several close races in which the winner or winners aren’t clear.

Gonzalez, whom officials say is aware of the problem, was out of the office Monday and could not be reached for comment.

Assistant Clerk/Recorder Lillian Pereira confirmed the central server had to be taken down, “because they’re trying to clean it,” she said.

Barrios stressed that no other government website had been tampered with and she expressed confidence in the security of San Benito County-run URLs.

“It’s still discouraging that somebody can go into your website and do those kinds of things,” Barrios said. “You have to be pretty savvy to be able to do that.”

County Administrative Officer Rich Inman noted how the elections website is independent of the county’s network while operated by a private company, the name of which the CAO did not have off hand.

“Obviously, it doesn’t have the security that we have,” he said.

A county sheriff’s office spokesman, Lt. Roy Iler, confirmed that the office had not heard of the hacking. Hollister police spokesman Sgt. David Westrick could not be reached immediately before publication.

De La Cruz described what he saw when he went to the website Saturday – a red flag and foreign terminology. He checked back within an hour after first looking at it, and the usual election content had appeared once again. Since that time, the county’s information technology department turned off the server altogether.

Another supervisor, Anthony Botelho, said the incident is “one of the things that keeps me awake at night” and he contended it is evidence that San Benito County is “a prime spot for terrorist attacks”.

“That’s the problem with today’s world and technology,” he said. You get these people who just do this for the fun of it.”

He went on, with a chuckle: “Why would anyone from Turkey hack into our elections site?”

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