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The motto of Britain's Royal Navy website is "Modern and Relevant."
But the big black box posted in the middle of its home page by website administrators suggests differently: "Unfortunately the Royal Navy website is currently undergoing essential maintenance. Please visit again soon."
What's behind the outage? On Friday, the Royal Navy website suffered an SQL injection attack by "TinKode," a Romanian self-described "gray hacker," who said that he'd lifted numerous administrator usernames, passwords, as well as databases from the website. According to published reports, officials took the website offline to make repairs.
According to Britain's Telegraph newspaper, "the shocking breach comes just weeks after the coalition government announced plans to make countering cyber-terrorism a major [defense] priority," backed by £500 million ($800 million) of investment.
Interestingly, the Telegraph's website was hacked in April by the so-called Romanian National Security group, in protest against the newspaper's portrayal of Romanians.
All breathlessness aside, the website hack would appear to fall far short of so-called "cyber terrorism," given that the Royal Navy website is an exercise in marketing. Furthermore, as one commenter to TinKode's disclosure put it, "Not hard to find vulnerable military site. Just use Google."
Another commenter asked, "Was it an SQL injection via the old version of VBulletin they have / had on their site?" -- referring to the vBulletin Internet forum software sold by Internet Brands. In July, the company patched a bug in vBulletin 3.8.6 that allowed attackers to see forums' administrator usernames and passwords.
Regardless, the incident should serve as a wake-up call, said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "We can all be thankful that Tinkode's activities appear to be have been more mischievous than dangerous. If someone with more malice in mind had hacked the site they could have used it to post malicious links on the Navy's JackSpeak blog, or embedded a Trojan horse into the site's main page."