A Web site allegedly hosting Taleban-related information was hacked overnight, crippling the organizations communications and re-opening debate about whether national security concerns outweigh the right to Web-based free speech.
A hacker who left an e-mail contact with a Russian Federation domain defaced www.taleban.com, replacing the site with his handle and several obscene messages surrounding a grainy photograph of Islamic extremist Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden and his vast international network are reportedly prime suspects in Tuesdays attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.
The Web site is registered to the New York-based Taleban Mission to the United Nations. Like many other phone numbers in New York, the phone number to the Taleban Mission was not working, likely because of overloaded circuits. The hack apparently crippled organizations e-mail communications.
The site, hosted by Atlanta-based Interland, was being taken down this morning because it is "in violation of our abuse policy," said Barbara Gibson, the companys vice president of public relations.
Interland was recently purchased by Micron Electric, which runs a large Web hosting operation focused on small and medium-sized enterprises under the HostPro brand. The company hosts about 230,000 business-class Web sites and claims about 130,000 customers.
"When this issue was raised before, at the time, the content of the site did not violate any laws and we didnt have any legal reason to take it down," Gibson said. "But we continued to keep an eye on it from time to time. Today we are taking it down."
Gibson said the site had been hacked, but could not say whether content generated by its owners had changed to place it in violation of U.S. laws.
"I have no more information," she said.
Executives of other Web hosting organizations expressed high concern about Interland not removing the Talebans Web site earlier.
Patrick Sweeney, president and CEO of ServerVault, said his company "would not host a site that supports any terrorist group, much less the most-wanted terrorist in the free world," bin Laden.
ServerVault is a Web hoster with a high emphasis on security and many law-enforcement customers.
"If I were Interland, I would immediately take [www.taleban.com] down, out of respect for those killed by recent acts of terrorism. Whether or not they were propagated by the Taleban-supported groups is irrelevant, the fact that a technology company is providing a platform to further the work and communication of that group is intolerable," Sweeney said. "Profiting from an organization like Taleban, which supports a man who formally declared war against the U.S. in a 1998 statement, an organization which denies women the right to vote, attend school or even have access to public health care is, in essence, taking blood money."