The promised dump of its emails from News International by hacktivist group LulzSec failed to materialise on Tuesday. However a prominent affiliate of the group told El Reg that the release had only been delayed, rather than postponed.
The UK end of the Murdoch media empire was hacked on Monday night, so that surfers visiting The Sun's website were redirected towards a spoof story on the fictitious suicide of Rupert Murdoch. The hack involved exploiting weaknesses on a retired site, running Solaris, set up by NI at the time NI was building a paywall for The Times.
This pwnage was then used in a stepping stone attack that ultimately allowed the hackers to gain root on a server that gave them the ability to add a redirection script to the "breaking news" element of The Sun's website.
Hacktivists scoffed at Murdoch's expense over these antics, making comments such as "WE HAVE JOY WE HAVE FUN WE HAVE ROOT ON MURDOCH'S SUN!"
The deep level of compromised access demonstrated by LulzSec in running the fake story meant claims by hacktivists that the group had also gained access to NI's email database were all too plausible.
Sabu, a prominent affiliate of LulzSec, said via Twitter that the group was sitting on emails of News International staffers that it planned to release on Tuesday. "Sun/News of the world OWNED. We're sitting on their emails. Press release tomorrow," Sabu said on Monday.
In a follow-up message, Sabu challenged the Met Police (already on the defensive over the handling of the original NotW phone hack investigation, as well as accepting payments and favours from NI execs) to investigate LulzSec's hack on NI's email servers.
"We hereby challenge the authorities in the UK to investigate the hack on the mail server(s) associated to The Sun/NotW. #hackgate #antisec."
News International took its webmail and remote access systems offline and reset passwords as a remedial action following thesun.co.uk's redirection hack. Systems were restored on Tuesday morning, The Guardian reports.
This is a sensible precaution but it won't help NI if LulzSec did in fact manage to extract email archive files, as it claims it has. So far the group has only published email hashes of a small number of employees as well as the supposed email password of Rebekah Brooks at the time she edited The Sun. Brooks (who was called Wade at the time) seems to have used 63000 as her email password, the same number as The Sun's tip-line.
The more technically skilled members of Anonymous and LulzSec have previously released emails spools from organisations targeted for special treatment beyond standard denial of service attacks and webpage defacements. Both HBGary Federal and ACS:Law know this to their cost. In both these cases, email databases were released at the same time the websites of the targeted organisations were defaced.
This hasn't been the case in the News International attack, with the focus of online discussion among hacktivists turning to this week's arrest of suspected Anonymous members in the US and Europe. However, Sabu told El Reg via Twitter that more news on the claimed hack of News International emails had merely been delayed.
"We will release a press release about the mails sometime relatively soon," he said, without giving any particular deadline.
So, it seems, sysadmins and the rapidly dwindling senior execs at News International are not entitled to relax just yet. ®