Hacker hits Liberal, Tory Web sites
Attacks try to freeze e-mail systems
Conservatives call RCMP to investigate

OTTAWA—The political cyberspace campaign took a nasty turn yesterday as both Liberal and Conservative party Web sites were sabotaged by a sophisticated hacker launching attacks from different Internet servers around the world.

The federal Conservatives called in RCMP technical experts to investigate, but the Liberal party had not yet taken that step late yesterday.

Both parties tried to bolster protections in their computer system — known as "firewalls" — to prevent the attacks, which attempted to paralyze their e-mail systems.

"The Conservative party has in the last several hours been repeatedly hit by malicious `distributed denial of service' (DDOS) attacks," said a memo circulated by the party's technical advisers.

"What this means is that one or a group of computer hackers has programmed a number of computers to hit and overwhelm the computers serving our Web site. In trying to defend our site, our computer service supplier has cut off Internet traffic from the offending stream, part of the Bell and MCI networks. As such not all Internet traffic is able to access our site."

"The RCMP technical crimes unit is actively investigating the attack," said Conservative strategist Yaroslav Baran.

Strikingly similar attacks were launched on the Liberal Web site, with "junk packets" of information being sent to the Liberal e-mail server, forcing the Liberals to constantly make adjustments that the hacker keeps adjusting to.

"We've had a hell of a problem with it," said Liberal party strategist Brian Guest.

"But we haven't been able to nail who is behind it.

``Whoever's doing it is very sophisticated."

Guest said efforts to trace the source of the attacks are being stymied by a computer program that appears to bounce the attacks from one server to another all the way around the world.

The Conservatives' Web site is http://www.conservative.ca and the Liberals' is http://www.liberal.ca.

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