Guilty plea in Al-Jazeera site hack
By Robert Lemos
Date: June 12, 2003
A central California man plead guilty Thursday to two charges stemming from an attack on the Web site of the Arab news service Al-Jazeera during the early days of the Iraq conflict
In a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's office for the Central District of California, John William Racine II, a 24-year-old Web designer, admitted to tricking VeriSign subsidiary Network Solutions into giving him ownership of the aljazeera.net domain. Racine said he then redirected visitors to that Internet address to another site, where they were greeted by an American flag and the phrase "Let freedom ring." The Norco, Calif., resident turned himself in to FBI agents on March 26, according to the plea agreement.
"Racine gained control of the aljazeera.net domain name by defrauding Network Solutions, where Al-Jazeera maintained an account for its domain name and e-mail services," the U.S. Attorney's office said in a statement.
Racine, also known as "John Boffo," used a false photo identification card and forged signature to impersonate an Al-Jazeera systems administrator and get control of Al-Jazeera's account, according to the plea agreement. In doing so, he gained control of where any data sent to aljazeera.net--including Web page requests and e-mail--ultimately ended up. The actual defacement appeared on a free Web site service provided by NetWorld Connections. Technically known as a "redirect," the hack caused Web browsers that attempted to go to www.aljazeera.net--as well as the English-language site, english.aljazeera.net--to be surreptitiously redirected to the content hosted on NetWorld's servers and see the American flag instead. For an entire week in late March, Al-Jazeera had to contend with technical problems and hackers that caused the site to be unavailable as often as not.
The Arabic and English news service, based in Doha, Qatar, found itself the focus of controversy during the war in Iraq for its coverage of the conflict. Opponents charged the Arab news group with bias, but many others have tuned into the young network's TV broadcasts and Web site for an alternative view of the issues surrounding the war and America's occupation of the Middle Eastern country.
Al-Jazeera also had to face its reporters being barred from the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq after the Pentagon criticized the news agency coverage of the war. Some U.S. officials commented that pictures and video that showed prisoners of war and dead American soldiers violated the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of captured soldiers and casualties.
The plea agreement states that on March 24, after the initial verbal salvos between U.S government officials and Al-Jazeera, Racine searched the Internet and found that Muhammed Jasim AlAli was listed as the administrative contact for the Arab news service's Internet domain, aljazeera.net. He then created an account on Microsoft's Hotmail and impersonated AlAli in telephone messages and e-mail to VeriSign, claiming that he needed to have the account password changed. Unable to answer a challenge question by a VeriSign employee, he said he would call back later.
Original article: http://news.com.com/2100-1002-1016447.html
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