Hackers hit Mars lander's Web site

Web site for NASA's most recent arrival on the Red Planet gets "pwned"

The Web site for the Phoenix Mars Mission, NASA's most recent arrival on the Red Planet, was hacked over the weekend by a Turkish crew, according to a defacement database.

Phoenix's site, which is hosted and operated by the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, was hacked on Saturday by members of the "sql loverz crew 2008," according to zone-h.org, a group that collects evidence of site attacks, including page defacements and redirects.

The home page of the Mars Mission's site was breached twice in quick succession Saturday by two members of the hacker gang, which is reportedly based in Turkey. Visitors were shunted to another site that displayed the Turkish flag and messages including "pwned by BLaSTER - Cr@zy_king" and "nasa teach ariz0na pwn3d??"

Security blogger Dancho Danchev first reported the zone-h.org logging of the redirect attacks.

On Saturday, the Associated Press quoted a Lunar and Planetary Laboratory's spokeswoman who acknowledged the attack and said that the site had been temporarily taken offline. As of Monday morning, the Phoenix Mars Mission site was back online.

Spokeswoman Sara Hammond did not return a phone call today asking for details about the attack, including how long the Web site was dark.

The Phoenix Mars Mission Web site offers news, images and other information about the lander, which safely touched down just over a week ago. The mission is being co-managed by the University of Arizona and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Unlike the still-functioning Mars rovers -- Spirit and Opportunity -- Phoenix is stationary. It will use an advanced robotic arm and other instruments to analyze Martian soil, particularly for evidence of water. The arm took its first scoop of soil today.

Web site defacements and redirects are common -- zone-h.org logs hundreds on a typical day -- and are often aimed at the most prominent sites. Last year, for example, hackers defaced the United Nations' site with messages accusing the US and Israel of killing children. Sections of the UN site remained offline for much of a day.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld

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