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November 19, 2013

Have Right-Wingers Hacked the ACA/Obamacare/Healthcare.gov Website... and is it a Freedom of Speech Issue?

By Rob Kall

There's talk that the healthcare.gov website has been hacked and subjected to Denial of Service DDOS attacks.


There's talk that the ACA/Obamacare/Healthcare.gov website been hacked by right-wingers?

That's the story buzzing around the web, twitter, etcetera. 

In a nutshell, the buzz is reporting that Homeland security has identified at least 16 hack attacks on the healthcare.gov website. This is based on testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, by  Roberta Stempfley, acting assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Cyber-security and Communications , shown in this youtube video , which also reports that there was a distributed denial of service attack, (DDOS) which failed. Denial of service attacks aim to disable a website by overwhelming it with too many attempts to access the site, thus overloading the server. 

Informationweek.com has an article,  Hackers Threaten Destruction Of Obamacare Website, which reports,
"Destroy Obama Care!"

That's the not-so-subtle name of a homegrown distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack tool that's being advertised for download on some social networks, and which promises to overwhelm the Healthcare.gov website.

"This program continually displays alternate page of the ObamaCare website. It has no virus, Trojans, worms, or cookies. The purpose is to overload the ObamaCare website, to deny serivce [sic] to users and perhaps overload and crash the system," reads the program's grammar- and spelling-challenged "about" screen. "You can open as many copies of this program as you want. Each copy opens multiple links to the site."

"ObamaCare is an affront to the Constitutional rights of the people," it adds. "We HAVE the right to CIVIL disobedience!"

Marc Eisenbarth, of Arbor Security Engineering and Response Team (ASSERT) commented in a blog post,  that the "Destroy Obamacare" DDOS attack, because of it's " architecture and many other limitations make this tool unlikely to succeed in affecting the availability of the healthcare.gov site." Eisenbarth also commented,
" ASERT has seen site specific denial of service tools in the past related to topics of social or political interest.  This application continues a trend ASERT is seeing with denial of service attacks being used as a means of retaliation against a policy, legal rulings or government actions."
The Informationweek.com article also mentions that half of DDOS attacks are ideological in nature. The publisher of the "Destroy Obamacare" website characterizes the DDOS as civil disobedience, and others have referred to this kind of activity as hacktivism. But the Informationweek.com article adds,
"What of the "Destroy Obama Care!" tool's premise that it allows users to exercise their right to civil disobedience? On this front, the tool's author has read his or her U.S. legal code incorrectly. Indeed, U.S. law enforcement agencies have vigorously prosecuted people who launch DDoS attacks against any website."
On the left, people are commenting and tweeting things like: 

  1. In case you haters missed it, turns out the ACA website failed because the a**holes hacked it.

website hacked Rollout disaster was work of sabatoge and an act of war

Right wingers are posting comments like:

GOP hacked ACA website? Do u also believe US moon landing was fake & aliens are in NM?


Mouth breathers at MSNBC now say GOP hacked the ACA website. They source Media Matters and Think Progress for this story......LOL

The fact is, DDOS attacks are very common. It is likely that any website that evokes an ideological response will have some DDOS experiences. This website has repeatedly experienced DDOS attacks over the years. The answer is for the server management team to build a robust defense system that detects DDOS attacks and responds to them. 

I would guess that the healthcare.gov site has actually had many more than 16 attempted hacks. This has become so common that it is barely news and not an acceptable excuse for the failure of the site to operate as it should. 

As far as the "Destroy Obamacare" website, it is likely that people using it are not masking their IP addresses, which will make them easy targets for prosecution. I have mixed feelings about that. Should politically motivated DDOS attacks be considered hacktivist civil disobedience comparable to protesters blocking sidewalk access to buildings? Or should DDOS hackers be prosecuted as criminals, even terrorists. With the recent sentencing of Stratfor hacker Jeremy Hammond, it is essential that any prosecution of people engaging in digital political be carefully considered and evaluated in light of the rights of protesters and free speech. If the Supreme Court can declare that money is speech, is it unreasonable to consider that DDOSs are also a form of expression, just as shouting over a speak is?

Submitters Bio:

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

Rob Kall Wikipedia Page

Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com

Rob is, with Opednews.com the first media winner of the Pillar Award for supporting Whistleblowers and the first amendment.

To learn more about Rob and OpEdNews.com, check out A Voice For Truth - ROB KALL | OM Times Magazine and this article. For Rob's work in non-political realms mostly before 2000, see his C.V..  and here's an article on the Storycon Summit Meeting he founded and organized for eight years. Press coverage in the Wall Street Journal: Party's Left Pushes for a Seat at the Table

Here is a one hour radio interview where Rob was a guest- on Envision This, and here is the transcript. 

To watch Rob having a lively conversation with John Conyers, then Chair of the House Judiciary committee, click hereWatch Rob speaking on Bottom up economics at the Occupy G8 Economic Summit, here.

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