Hackers sabotage official Czech Republic website

This weekend some rather clever computer hackers broke into the Czech Republic's official website, replacing the front page with a photo of two children accompanied by the words "citizens of the Czech Republic, you are now under a new leader: this is the most recent picture of him."

The Czech Foreign Ministry, which runs the site, has now returned it to normal after 24 hours off-line, but the incident has raised fresh questions about Czech Internet security. Jan Moravec is Radio Prague's Systems Administrator, and earlier today Pavla Navratilova asked him whether there were any lessons to learn for the Czech Internet community:

"I think it doesn't signify anything more in the Czech Republic than anywhere else. It just signifies that Internet security is a question to think about all the time. The bad side of this being that you never know how hackers get into other websites. The administrators don't tell you because usually they repair the server and it works the same way it worked before. So the same security stays at the same place. It's very difficult to learn from those cases and to improve your own security. You really have to pay attention to it all the time and try to find ways how to break in every time a new tool, a new version of a program is issued." Is there a way of improving security to avoid such situations happening in the future? "In the future there is, but always when you improve the security there is a hacker who tries to hack into the improved version. Usually it's said that the hackers are one step in front of the development teams. The only solution to this is to update as soon as possible and pay attention." The update actually becomes a challenge for the hackers? "Yes, definitely." What is the overall aim of a hacker? "It is usual to present himself on the Internet, to show that he can do it. It is not stealing any data, it's not destroying anything that is located on the server. It can be, in some cases, for personal reasons; destroying the website that the webmaster is responsible for." Now is the Czech Republic, or Central Europe on a whole, at greater risk in terms of Internet security? "It is and it isn't. Usually the Czech servers are well guarded, well secured. They don't have big security holes. But on the other hand we have many people who try to be hackers, or who try to break into the websites. Czech hackers don't usually destroy any data; they don't erase any websites, they don't really steal anything. They just change the entry page to tell the world that they got in and that they can do it. I heard some rumors that it's usually people that don't have job at the moment, that try to advertise themselves in such a way." What are the basic security steps taken by larger companies and Internet sites such as Radio Prague, to guard against such hacking? "The first step is to assign users user-names and passwords; that's the first and basic step. Once the network is connected to the Internet, of course you need something that prevents the others coming from Internet [users] getting into the network. This is usually done by some software called firewall. And this firewall prevents users from outside getting in."

If you want to visit the Czech Republic's official website, log onto www.czech.cz and of course Radio Prague's own site is www.radio.cz/english.