Learning about alchemy, Zoroastrianism and even sacred sexuality got a little bit harder last month when a student at the Freie Universität in Berlin hacked into the Santa Cruz-based Sacred-texts.com
Site administrator John Bruno Hare says a German hacker, purportedly a Christian fundamentalist, nearly brought down the site, which is one of the largest on the web on the topic of religion and carries a wide spectrum of religious texts in an effort to promote religious tolerance.
Determined to keep the site open, Hare sleuthed out the hacker, one Robert Mücke, who apparently used a machine in his university's physics department to conduct a series of denial of service attacks (which means a program is used to download the pages at a website repeatedly, thereby overloading the web server and preventing other users from accessing the site) against the sacred-texts archive for a 10-day period in March. Mücke reportedly downloaded the site twice a day, with attacks peaking mid-March, when he downloaded it five times over.
Hare says he first became aware something was wrong when sales of the Sacred-texts CD-ROM dropped dead.
"I had just shipped a new version of the CD, which had drawn a lot of interest, and I was mystified as to why it wasn't selling," says Hare, noting that customers leave if response time is slow, which is what denial of service does.
Concerned, Hare examined the site logs and found a massive number of hits arriving from a machine named "broiler.physik.fu-berlin.de."
Recognizing this address to mean the Freie Universitaet of Berlin, Hare contacted system administrators who promptly barred the hacker.
So, why did Mücke muck with Hare's sacred site?
An email (reproduced verbatim below) Mücke sent to Hare on being closed down may shed some light.
"I surely can not agree with to mix up all the pagan cults, idols, witchcrafts (6. & 7. book of "Moses"), esoteric, ocullt, theosophic and even satanic views and the God that created heaven and earth that hates these former things with one another without distinction. I am probably not the first who tells you this, but also not the last. God will be last one for sure. There would be no martyrs Fox could have been writing about, and no John Bunyan suffering persecution and writing such precious allegories about the way and fight of believers towards Heaven, if these people of former generations had such relativistic view of truth that comes more and more common today, that calls evil good and good evil."
Hare says the site usually gets a positive response.
"I get emails from people of all faiths saying that it's a valuable resource. Two days after Sept. 11, we saw a big spike in use, with up to a million hits a day, with people mostly referencing Nostradamus after receiving an email, saying the terrorist attacks were part of his predictions--a claim our site helped show to be an urban legend."
Noting that Buddhism, Taoism and Sacred Sexuality usually get the most hits, Hare says the purpose of the site is to promote religious tolerance.
"Unfortunately, there are also a lot of people who don't like the idea of religious tolerance and are willing to go to any extreme to quash it. Fundamentalism is beyond my comprehension and everybody is welcome at the website, but when someone starts denying others access, I have to draw the line. I'm just glad the whole episode is over."
Us, too. Come to think of it, Hare probably has the only functioning dotcom left in town.
From the April 3-10, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz (http://www.metroactive.com/cruz/).
Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.