Senate candidate says his website was hacked

Friday, October 29, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The problem of election-related vandalism has entered a new twist era in Missouri -- cybersabotage.

Jerry Beck, the Constitution Party of Missouri's candidate for U.S. Senate, said his campaign website and YouTube page were hacked recently.

"Somebody took my entire website down and my four YouTube videos," Beck said. "I had 98 web articles up on that website that explained a little bit about everything."

"That complete website ... probably the best website on the Internet."

Beck said he doesn't know who would have targeted him and that he has been able to recover most of his campaign materials. His election materials can now be accessed though the Constitution Party's national website.

In a campaign year, vandalism, such as burning and stealing of political yard signs, is common, though illegal. Most cities cover sign vandalism under their city ordinances and the local police handle investigations and complaints.

U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., has been the target of a couple more serious cases of vandalism. In March, someone placed mock coffins outside Carnahan's St. Louis home and spray painted two vehicles, a campaign sign and the sidewalk in front of the house.

In August, Carnahan's campaign office in St. Louis was firebombed by a disgruntled former campaign worker.

But with so much of modern election campaigning being done on the Internet, cybersecurity is a serious issue for political candidates and their campaigns.

"That's regrettably so," political consultant James Harris said. "Protecting websites has become more and more important, and you have to find a good web designer or management company to make sure your sites don't get hacked."

For Harris and other political consultants, website security goes beyond keeping pranksters from posting embarrassing images or information about candidates and issues. Harris said political websites handle large amounts of privileged information about people who contribute to campaigns.

"You have to work with companies who have good encryption software and who are trustworthy and reputable," Harris said.

Harris and other campaign officials said due to the sensitive nature of personal information shared on campaign sites, much time, effort and expense is given to website security.

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