Hackers Attack the Netroots

Progressive bloggers regroup after hackers debilitate several sites

Hackers Attack the Netroots

The strength of the online progressive political community known as the netroots was tested last week when the firm that provides software and servers for many leading blogs was hacked and nearly destroyed.

On Jan. 6, unknown hackers attacked the servers of SoapBlox, the service provider and data management tool of choice for more than 100 high-profile blogs, including the Austin-based Burnt Orange Report. Around a quarter of the sites were wiped out, and administrators for the rest were in limbo while they tried to work out how much data was lost. BOR Editor-in-Chief Matt Glazer said, "We found out on Wednesday morning [Jan. 7], and all of a sudden we got all these frantic e-mails that sites like Michigan Lib­er­al were just not operating."

SoapBlox's role in the last general election is one that political consultants are still analyzing. Some clients, such as SwingStateProject.com, became key information resources in the Democrats' 50-state initiative. In Texas, its customers include Democrat activists Turn Texas Blue and Texans for Obama.

While the sites are often run on a shoestring budget, Democrats have praised their organizational skills, and Republicans are looking to emulate their successes. The Central Texas blogs managed to attract cash and media attention to Austin last July when they lured the Netroots Nation convention to town (see "Building the Netroots Nation," July 11, 2008).

Getting the system back online and secure will cost $17,400, but within five days of the attack, the seasoned fundraisers of the Netroots Nation were already within $500 of that target after taking donations through another online progressive resource, ActBlue. Now SoapBlox users and President Paul Preston are discussing how to reorganize the system to make it less vulnerable to future attacks and how to share the responsibility for its management and development. "We're lucky that we're not in an election season," said Glazer, "and we can fix it before it becomes a huge problem."

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