Unknown assailants employed a sophisticated cyber attack Thursday to destroy a FreedomWorks server, crashing the grass-roots organization's Web site just as Fox News personality and radio host Glenn Beck directed listeners there for a major fund-raising push in the critical waning days of the 2010 campaign.
The precisely timed denial-of-service attack sowed chaos, snarling the organization's Web traffic and setting off a flood of calls from frustrated radio listeners who were unable to access the site to make their donations. The group estimates the attack cost over $40,000 in lost donations alone.
FreedomWorks officials blasted the cyber attack as clearly a "criminal act."
They say they detected the intrusion quickly; otherwise the site could have been brought down for several days.
Sources tell Newsmax that the cyber break-in began at 6:55 a.m. on Thursday. But it didn't begin to adversely impact the Web site until 9:45 a.m.
Site operations were disrupted, and a short time later the site crashed.
FreedomWorks, led by former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey, has played an instrumental role in supporting the efforts of the emergent grass-roots conservative movement that has already shaken up establishment politics in both parties this cycle. It has helped the movement evolve from town-hall protests and marches into a viable political operation capable of influencing races on the precinct and neighborhood level nationwide.
Republicans are counting on tea party activists to play a vital role in offsetting what is expected to be a massive, union-backed get-out-the-vote operation that Democrats are counting on to minimize their midterm losses. But street-level political operations are expensive.
FreedomWorks leaders reacted strongly to the cyber warfare tactics, which they believe may have been designed to knock them out of the campaign until after Election Day.
"This is a criminal act, not a prank," FreedomWorks spokesman Adam Brandon tells Newsmax. "There will be an investigation and we plan on taking this to the full extent of the law."
Brandon credited the heroic work of a talented staff of young computer techs who were able to quickly quarantine the affected portion of the network with saving the site. Service was restored by early afternoon.
"I find it very hard to believe that the same morning out final push began, this attack took place," Brandon says. "This was clearly criminal, and I believe clearly political. It was very deliberate, it was no mistake. A server was destroyed by the attack and the site crashed for two hours."
The attack appeared timed to disrupt a FreedomWorks "money bomb" fund-raiser whose goal was to raise $200,000 to help fund ground-game activities such as yard signs, fliers, and other grass-roots initiatives.
Brandon described the "Get Out The Vote Money Bomb" as critical to the group's final push to elect small-government candidates who respect the Constitution.
"This stuff is critical for us," Brandon says. "…We had to disable a lot of our sites, we couldn't take a lot of our online donations. That's how FreedomWorks lives. That we didn't get those donations, that hurts."
Brandon tells Newsmax that Beck has graciously agreed to explain what happened to his audience on Friday. Operations at the site, FreedomWorks.org, have been restored. No data were lost or stolen.
Users who click on the site's "GOTV Money bomb" link receive a message that states: "On the very day we launched our Moneybomb, a sophisticated hacker tried to take our site down. They FAILED.
"Our vigilant and resourceful web team stopped the attack before any damage was done. As we upkeep our cyber-defenses, we will be processing all online transactions through our PayPal account. It’s simple and straightforward -- and no need to sign up for anything.
"It is a sur
e sign of their desperation that the left is sinking this low for any hope of reversing the coming electoral landslide," the site states. "Let’s make them regret they ever tried.
"Please, click below to make a 100 percent secure donation of $25, $50, $100 or more through our PayPal processor. We still need to raise $200,000 before Election Day, but now we’re a day behind."
The FreedomWorks.org site then directs users to a secure PayPal link where donations can be made.
Says Brandon: "This is the American Democracy. We can have different opinions. But 50 years ago, this was equivalent of burning a campaign headquarters down, and then burning up all the signs.
"This is how we communicate and this is how we organize," he adds. "You take our site down, and we're not able to do what we're supposed to do as a service center for this tea party movement."
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