Skate park poll hacked?

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By Carol A. Clark

A computer savvy individual recently alerted the Monitor that its online survey program is vulnerable and may have been hacked.

The sharp-eyed web surfer, who calls himself “a concerned computer geek,” explained in an e-mail sent to the Monitor Friday that because he noticed the voting numbers on the skate park poll “jumped in a hurry.” He started reading the poll script used on the Monitor’s website to see how easy it would be to “stuff ballots.”

He saw that the votes against the skate park rose suddenly and substantially and he indicated someone may have hacked the system.

He described the steps he took that allowed him into the administrative interface on the poll page of the program, which gave him access to manipulate the vote had he so desired.

He immediately backed out of the system, he said because “doing that was a federal crime. That is why I am sending this to you anonymously. Sorry to be so weasely, but even though I tampered with nothing, you could still sue me into poverty.”

He then explained in his e-mail how to fix the vulnerability and said, “pretty much any computer geek at Los Alamos High School would be able to walk you through the process ... or they could just do it for you.”

“Our corporate office, which is located out of state, set up the polling program and monitors it for us,” said Monitor Art Director Rob Lamb. “Once we received the e-mail from the concerned computer geek, we removed the skate park poll from our website and notified our corporate office. They have indicated that the site has been secured.”

Monitor Publisher Ralph Damiani said polls of this nature are designed to provide an unscientific sampling of online community sentiment and should not be used as a serious point of reference.