Kabulpress.org, Afghanistan’s most read internal news site was knocked off the Internet for about 18 hours beginning late Sunday July 6, 2008 after an unauthorized party gained access to its on-line files, and replaced the home page with a video warning that death would be coming soon.
According to Kabulpress.org editor-in-chief, Kamran Mir Hazar, the site’s home page was deleted and replaced by the group’s “calling card” page (see screen shot). Although the calling card stated that this was merely a “security check and no files have been deleted,” Mir Hazar noted that in fact numerous pages had been deleted and files had been tampered with.
Within the calling card page, there was a link to a fundamentalist Islamic website that provides numerous religious videos and advice for conversion to Islam (www.islamway.com). A monitor at Islamway.com stated that the videos might be used by hackers, but claimed that his organization would have no interest in hacking other sites. The calling card itself made several references to Arab pen names. No organization has claimed responsibility for the hacking.
The calling card included a three minute animated video with a fundamentalist theme that a choice must be made between heaven an hell, and that death is coming soon. Given the forced nature of the intrusion, there is certainly an implied death threat to kabulpress.org.
Click here to view the video.
At this time, there are several possibilities for how the illegal entry occurred, and anti-hacking measures have been fortified to protect the site from further intrusion.
Kabulpress.org receives nearly 650,000 page views per month in its Dari and English versions. It is known for revealing corruption in government, business, and NGOs in Afghanistan. A noted advocate of free speech and journalist rights, it also hosts a lively discussion forum. Kabulpress.org is recognized as an outlet where Afghan whistle-blowers can send stories, documents, and photographs revealing official and corporate crime, greed, corruption, embezzlement, ethics breaches, and gross mismanagement.
Kabulpress.org’s editors believe that a recent story revealing serious divisions in the the Taliban’s leadership, could have sparked this attack. Kabulpress.org presents five to seven original news stories daily, many of which prompt numerous reader comments.
Due to its content, Kabulpress.org has received many threats over its three-year life. Editor Mir Hazar has been illegally detained twice by the Afghan intelligence service in Kabul, shackled in a small cell, and threatened with torture and death. Although the site receives regular threats, this is the first incident where serious damage occurred. No permanent damage has been done to the files, but bringing the site back on line required many hours of work by several web experts. The site, is currently fully functional.
"Calling Card" from hacker group that replaced Kabulpress.org: homepage