Update: An Astute Reader notes that NB’s statement doesn’t mention that it was an American client or that the elections in question were Tuesday’s primaries. Good point! I made that assumption, but NB’s clients are international, and this may have been an attack on someone overseas, with their U.S. clients suffering collateral damage. I’ll see what I can find out. Update II: The Twitterverse is convinced the target was the UK Independence Party. So much for respecting people’s right to speak, no matter how much you may disagree with them.
Campaign dirty tricks! Organizing-technology provider NationBuilder got hit by a “Distributed Denial of Service” attack on Monday, which they believe was intended to hurt one of their political clients right before Tuesday’s primary elections. Nasty stuff!
A DDoS attack occurs when someone directs many different computers to request files from a particular website or domain all at once, slowing traffic to and from the target’s webservers and sometimes crashing them entirely. How is this possible? Malware: bad actors in the internet space, who’ve managed to insert code into many different computers that they can then activate from afar. From NationBuilder:
NationBuilder began experiencing a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on Monday, resulting in a full service outage from 1:07pm to 5:35pm PT, and intermittent outages through Tuesday morning. These attacks did not compromise any of your data or financial information.
We are reasonably certain the attack is directed at one of our customers for their political beliefs, and is meant to disrupt upcoming elections.
Not exactly elevating the political discourse, eh? And NationBuilder’s well aware that they can take a hit from this event, too:
NationBuilder exists to provide the infrastructure for organizing â€“ and that infrastructure must withstand any attacks.
And this week, we failed. We are deeply sorry.
The only good news to come of this is that we are dramatically stronger than we were before, both in our technical infrastructure and in our effectiveness as a team. We cannot promise this will never happen again, but we can promise that we will continue to invest heavily in our infrastructure to withstand any and all attacks.
DDoS attacks aren’t new in politics; we covered one back in 2006, soon after Epolitics.com launched. But attacking your target’s advocacy platform can have powerful ripple effects, as we see in the case of NationBuilder: when you try to bring down one campaign or organization, you can hurt many others in the process. Let this be a warning to every other political technology provider! And, it gives me yet another argument why we need as much competition and variety in the political technology market as possible. This WON’T be the last online dirty trick we’ll see in politics — that I can guarantee.