It’s an election year. Imagine that you are a leading opposition politician, an aspiring presidential candidate in fact. You wake up Thursday morning to find shocking headlines in a leading daily newspaper: Criminals have broken into your website and somehow redirected it to a rival politician’s site, telling the whole world that you support your rival. Your rival is in fact the guy you’re facing off against for your party’s presidential ticket. You read on and discover that your party’s site has also been similarly attacked to redirect visitors to the incumbent government’s site which openly attacks your party. This might seem like a bad dream to you but it is, in fact, what happened in Kenya this week.
For those of you not familiar with Kenyan politics: 2007 is an election year with the main opposition party being ODM-K whose numerous frontrunners are squaring it off for the party’s presidential ticket. Kalonzo Musyoka and Raila Odinga are two of ODM-K’s leading lights. The Standard is a leading Daily in Kenya. Having introduced the cast, we’ll now go back to our story.
On Thursday, the Standard’s headline story was of how Kalonzo’s site had been attacked and made to redirect visitors to Raila’s site. In turn, ODM-K’s site was similarly redirected to the incumbent government’s site.
Oh wait, but the plot thickens! It turns out that Kalonzo’s real website was not attacked at all and neither was ODM-K’s real website. As it turns out, some criminals had set up fake websites and thus caused all this confusion and hullabaloo. This is called phishing.
Suppose you were one of these criminals. After setting up your fake Kalonzo website, all you need is for someone to come and publicize the fact that Kalonzo’s ‘website’ has been cracked so that your phishing would have its desired effects. The effect, of course, is that of creating confusion and chaos within ODM-K, among its luminaries, and the electorate. You know full well that no one will accidentally come across your fake site because the whole world already knows the url of Kalonzo’s real site – he launched it gallantly and loudly a short while ago. One thought is troubling your little criminal mind: how do you get people to notice your fake website? You have to find a sneezer!
What if you ‘passed on’ the news of Kalonzo’s site having been attacked to a leading newspaper in the hopes of them publicizing your criminal feat? After all, the perfect sneezer would be a leading newspaper. I believe that is exactly what happened. The Standard Newspaper was used.
Personally, this proves that politics is an extremely dirty game which, ideally, should not be tried at home. I do not care much for politics but I find this story intriguing and, inevitably, I have to say that the guys behind it did a real good job. Above all, this incident makes me happy. It’s sad that somebody was used and others’ feelings were hurt but having it happen online has its goodness. The more we use the internet (even for criminal purposes), the more useful it becomes. We should all learn from this sad episode.
As I write this, both fake websites redirect visitors to pages belonging to the Daily Nation, another major Daily in Kenya and a competitor of The Standard.
The Link to The Standard’s Headline Story:
The Real Websites: