Hackers initially tried to take down a website set up by the church to promote the event, handle registrations and sell merchandise. Their goal — according to YouTube messages delivered by an Anonymous figure in a Guy Fawkes mask — was to disrupt the event and draw attention to child sexual abuse by priests, among other issues.No dice:
The videos, which have been viewed more than 77,000 times, include a verbal attack on the Pope and the young people who “have forgotten the abominations of the Catholic Church.” One calls on volunteers to “prepare your weapons, my dear brother, for this August 17th to Sunday August 21st, we will drop anger over the Vatican.”
A core group of roughly a dozen skilled hackers spent three days poking around the church’s World Youth Day site looking for common security holes that could let them inside, the report says...From the early days of radio onward, the Vatican's use of technology has shown remarkable sophistication.
In this case, the scanning software failed to turn up any gaps. So the hackers turned to a brute-force approach — a so-called distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attack that involves clogging a site with data requests until it crashes. Even unskilled supporters could take part in this from their computers or smartphones...
On the first day, the denial-of-service attack resulted in 28 times the normal traffic to the church site, rising to 34 times the next day. Hackers involved in the attack, who did not identify themselves, said through a Twitter account associated with the campaign that the two-day effort succeeded in slowing the site’s performance and making the page unavailable “in several countries.” Imperva disputed that the site’s performance was affected and said its technologies had successfully siphoned the excess data away from the site.
Imperva executives say the Vatican’s defenses held up because, unlike Sony and other hacker targets, it invested in the infrastructure needed to repel both break-ins and full-scale assaults.