Attack disrupts access to College Publisher Web site

VIRGINIA — An assault on the College Publisher Web siteWednesday, Feb. 3, left many users temporarily unable to upload content to theonline newspaper host site.

This “denial of service attack” on College Publisher affectedabout 100 of the 600 online student publications the site hosts, said CollegeMedia Network Director Rusty Lewis. College Publisher is a host site for collegepublications’ online editions; the site is run by the College MediaNetwork.

One of the papers affected by this was The Daily Reveille atLouisiana State University at Baton Rouge. At about 11 p.m. Feb. 4, members ofthe staff found they could not upload content to the newspaper’s Website.

“We realized we were up a creek without a paddle,”Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Persac said.

When staff members contacted College Publisher, they were told it could bea few hours before the problem was solved, so they left for the night, planningto wake up periodically to check for progress. On Friday morning the site wasstill not working, but by the end of the day they were able to post again.

“We’re back to uploading the same amount of newcontent,” Persac said.

Lewis said the denial of service attack is not considered to be a”hack” since there was no breech of security. He equated thesituation more with spamming, saying someone intentionally overloaded theserver, which caused “a domino effect of issues,” some of which thestudents encountered in their brief inability to upload new content.

“They didn’t get into our database,” Lewis said.”They didn’t delete any content from our system.”

Amy Kudwa, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,said denial of service can happen “organically” when a site isoverloaded with visitors by coincidence, but “an attack is, by definition,mindful.”

When groups of computers, called “botnets,” are all directedby either an individual or a group to visit a Web site at the same time, Kudwasaid, the volume is intended to “impact the service of thatsite.”

The origin of the attack on College Publisher is not yet known, but it wasdeliberate, Lewis said. Fixing the problem comes first, he said, and figuringout who caused it is “a second priority at this point.”

The affected Web content was information posted between Jan. 18 throughlast Thursday, Feb. 4, Lewis said. College Media Network posted an update today on itsWeb site regarding the retrieval of information.

“In a best-case scenario,” the statement reads,”successful recovery of the database means restoration of articles andsimilar content from this time span.”

Persac said the Reveille lost the content it had posted since thebeginning of the semester two weeks ago, adding that College Publisher has beenvery helpful and optimistic that it will be restored.

College Publisher was in touch almost hourly trying to fix the problem,Persac said. They have been very apologetic, he said, and have assured him thatthey are looking into ways to prevent this from happening again.

Fixing the problems caused by this attack, Lewissaid, will hopefully happen by the end of this week, but if not, then within thenext few weeks.

“We have contracted the best database vendor out there torestructure the database,” Lewis said.

The Web site has been running normally since Feb. 5, Lewis said, and noproblems were reported over the weekend.