During the month of March, 2002, a denial of service attack was conducted by a German hacker against sacred-texts.com. Sacred-texts.com is site based in Santa Cruz, California which has a wide spectrum of religious texts, and promotes religious tolerance.
The hacker, Robert Mücke, a student at the Freie Universitaet of Berlin, conducted a series of denial of service attacks against the Internet Sacred Text Archive (sacred-texts.com), between March 13 and 23. The hacker used a machine in the universities' physics department.
A denial of service attack is when a program is used to download the pages at a website repeatedly. By overloading the web server, legitimate users of the site are prevented from accessing it.
The hacker was downloading the entire site an average of twice a day. The attacks peaked on March 17th, when 61% of the hits at the site were from the hackers' machine. On that day the hacker transferred over a gigabyte of material from sacred-texts, downloading the site five times over.
No customer information was accessed or stolen by the hacker, as it is not kept at the site. The hacker simply downloaded the entire site, over and over, to prevent people from reading it.
"The first thing I knew, sales of the Sacred-texts CD-ROM just dropped dead for two weeks." said Mr J.B. Hare, administrator of the site. "I had just shipped a new version, which had drawn a lot of interest, and I was mystified as to why it wasn't selling." The mystery was solved when sales picked up after the hacker stopped bombarding sacred-texts. "Customers will leave a site if the response time is slow, which is exactly what a denial of service attack does." said Mr. Hare.
Mr Hare started examining the site logs. These are files which record each request for pages at the website. A massive number of hits were arriving from a machine named 'broiler.physik.fu-berlin.de'. Mr. Hare contacted the system administrators at fu-berlin.de. The Freie Universitaet of Berlin promptly barred the hacker from using the computer from which the attacks were conducted, ending the problem.
Mücke sent an email to the administrator of sacred-texts.com stating in part:
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.
"The site usually gets very a positive response, and I get emails from people of all faiths saying that it is a valuable resource." Mr. Hare said. "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. I'm just glad the whole episode is over."