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Talkin' Tech: Trump campaign website hacked and defaced
by Martie Marro for Windy City Times
2020-10-28

This article shared 3046 times since Wed Oct 28, 2020
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On Oct. 27, 2020 shortly before 6 p.m. central time, Donald Trump's campaign website, www.donaldjtrump.com, was hacked.

The hackers left a message (shown in the image above) claiming they had proof the Trump administration was involved in the origin of the Corona Virus. The hacked front page also contained a claim of other misdeeds by President Trump that "the world was tired of."

Included on the hacked website were two links to cryptocurrency wallets encouraging visitors to "vote" by sending cryptocurrency money to the wallets. A visitor should pay one cryptocurrency wallet if they wanted the damaging information released and another cryptocurrency wallet if they wanted the damaging information to stay hidden.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Monero are popular among hackers because the buyer and seller are protected by anonymity—there is no record or ledger kept to track the transaction in any way. While it is doubtful that the hackers had any information to share, it is clear the hackers intent was to make money off of the website intrusion using the "voting" system they created with their anonymous cryptocurrency accounts.

The Trump campaign website, which was initially believed to have been built on the WordPress content management system (CMS), was discovered later to be hosted an a different platform. WordPress is used by 455 million websites in the world, which makes the WordPress CMS a whopping 35% of the market share in 2020. This is also why WordPress is the most hacked CMS in the world. The CMS is open source and well known to programmers and hackers alike. It has countless vulnerabilities and can easily be hacked through any number of plugins.

This is particularly true when a weak password is used like 'maga2020' or 'yourefired'. These are both passwords hackers have used to hack into the President's Twitter account. A Dutch hacker recently claimed to have used the 'maga2020' password to hack Trump's Twitter account.

Trump's campaign website actually used a different popular CMS as the backbone of his website, called Expression Engine. Expression Engine also has a few well-known vulnerabilities. Hackers don't actually need to exploit vulnerabilities when weak user names or weak passwords are used. Hosted systems often used the word 'admin' as the user name and 'password' as the password when first setup. If this information is never changed, hackers are in luck. Without forensic evidence it is unclear how the hackers intruded the president's website, but listed below are a few possibilities.

1. Compromised Username or Password on the Content Management System (Expression Engine), High Probability.

It is clear that Trump's team, or perhaps President Trump himself, likes simple passwords. They are far easier to remember for both President Trump and his staff. However, sharing a password with a group of people almost always leads to the password eventually being compromised.

2. Compromised Username or Password on the Content Delivery Network (Cloudflare), Medium Probability.

Using easy usernames/passwords across different websites is a sure way to have those usernames and passwords eventually compromised. Even if the password is slightly altered per unique website it still serves no real security purpose. For Example: 'Maga2020Cloud' would be just as easy to guess as 'Maga2020'.

3. Vulnerability within the Content Management System (Expression Engine), Medium Probability.

While Expression Engine does have a few vulnerabilities, a good host or webmaster would have patched those vulnerabilities as they were made aware. Given that Trump has already hired inexperienced cabinet members and White House staff, it is entirely possible he hired a webmaster with no previous experience as well. With an inexperienced webmaster at the helm this would mean the vulnerabilities were never fixed and the CMS was never upgraded.

4. Vulnerability within the Content Delivery Network (Cloudflare), Low Probability.

Cloudflare is a professional Content Delivery Network used by 18 million websites around the world. Cloudflare hides the origin IP and delivers content without showing the original servers IP address. There are no known vulnerabilities to this method of content delivery, aside from the passwords used by by its members. Bad passwords would only leave an individual account compromised, not the whole network.

5. Vulnerability within the Domain Registrar (GoDaddy.com, LLC) using DNS, High Probability.

Since most of the information listed about the domain name donaldjtrump.com is public this means the domain isn't locked up in a domain privacy vault where access to the domain information is next to impossible for both the owner and hackers. Surprisingly, the domain name was purchased in 1997 which is late for such a well-known celebrity. The domain has been moved 15 times over the last 23 years to different hosts. This means 15 people (server administrators) have known the hosting/ftp password over the years. If the hosting user name and password wasn't changed over that time or for each successive move to a new host this would be a major weakness. GoDaddy is also well known and can be compromised by any one of the 62 million users who have also used their service.

It appears that Trump's hacked accounts, Twitter and donaldjtrump.com, can all be traced back to horrible password use. These hacks were preventable and quite frankly all world leaders should have a knowledgeable IT assistant on staff. Hiring inexperienced staff can have dreadful outcomes as shown by the coronavirus task force, for example. Fortunately, compromised websites and social-media accounts rarely cause death.

In short, do not share your passwords, don't use passwords with easy words, and don't use phrases that are public knowledge. The word God, ILoveYou, Password, Unicorn, BiteMe, and astrological signs are some of the most common bad passwords people use. 12345, and 123456789 are also common bad passwords.

Ten percent of people, around 30 million people in the U.S. alone, have used at least one of the top 25 worst passwords. Dragon and Princess are also included as bad passwords in this 25 worst passwords list. In addition, always use a capital letter, a number, and a special character in your passwords, and never use that same password or a derivative on a different website or your devices. Turn on Two-step authentication whenever possible.

Following all these tips will leave your accounts safe from hacking or compromise.


This article shared 3046 times since Wed Oct 28, 2020
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