Tech hacking: Site back up, search on for cyber-vandals unknown

Update, 9:47 a.m.: The website is back up. Learn more about recent cyber-attacks on it in the item below, originally published at 9:21 a.m.

Someone with impressive tech skills appears to have a grudge against the City of Denver. The official website,, has been hacked twice in less than a week.

According to spokesman Eric Brown, the city's tech group is currently testing the site and the hope of returning it to functionality sometime today -- perhaps this morning. But that doesn't mean city reps or folks from the Denver Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Microsoft, all of whom are working on the case, have a clear idea who's to blame or how to prevent it from happening again.

The tale began last Thursday. "We had an attack at about 8 a.m. that our tech services people caught immediately and took the website down," Brown says. "The site was down for about six hours before we were able to restore it. Then, last night at about eight o'clock, the website was the target of a second hacking attack."

The working theory is that the some person or persons responsible for Thursday's initial salvo returned to the scene of the cyber-crime yesterday. Brown didn't personally see the hacker's signature image last Thursday, but he eyeballed last night's version -- and the tech crew tells him they're similar if not identical.

Brown notes that the attack was relatively benign as these things go, in that there's been "no loss in data or exposure to any internal systems beyond the website. Our tech services guys say this is, in essence, a form of digital vandalism.

"Already, some reports are circulating that if you gave your credit card information to the city, or if the city has your property records, you're vulnerable, but none of that information was accessed."

And it won't be, if the city has anything to say about it.

"We've notified the Denver Police Department, the FBI cyber-crimes unit, and we worked with Microsoft throughout the night to identify the root cause and secure the website," he points out. The reason for this three-pronged approach is to "help us on the back end of this, to look at security measures and precautions. This is a high priority to us. We're looking at every resource we have access to, in order to fix it and make sure it doesn't happen again."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts