GeorgeWBush.com Switched Traffic Managers, Barred Foreign Visitors During Election's Home Stretch

by , Nov 22, 2004, 12:00 AM
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In late October, several days after the Web site GeorgeWBush.com began using Akamai technology to manage traffic, the site blocked access to visitors coming from non-U.S. IP addresses, according to Netcraft, a U.K.-based traffic analysis firm. Surfers from every country except the United States and Canada received a "403 forbidden" response from the server and a Web page saying "Access denied: You don't have permission to access http://georgewbush.com on this server."

Netcraft, which monitors Web site response times from seven locations--four within the United States as well as London, Amsterdam, and Sydney, Australia--spotted the international exclusions on Oct. 25. From that date through Nov. 8, requests to GeorgeWBush.com from Netcraft's international locations were denied, while no problems were recorded in its U.S. locations.

Netcraft Analyst Rich Miller said he noticed on Oct. 21--four days before the outages--that GeorgeWBush.com began using the Akamai's content distribution network to manage traffic to the site, which is hosted at SMARTech Corporation. Miller said the shift followed a six-hour outage that was reported on October 19, at both GeorgeWBush.com and RNC.org, the official Web site of the Republican National Convention--a shift Miller thought might have been caused by attempts to overwhelm a site with traffic.

Netcraft concluded that the decision to use Akamai technology to block access to GeorgeWBush.com from foreign IP addresses must have come from the Bush camp, as opposed to hackers, because of the manner in which only non-U.S. IP addresses were blocked. Akamai has a database index of worldwide IP addresses that allows it to segment geographically, but hackers simply don't have the resources to deny access to so many worldwide IP addresses, said Netcraft. In fact, among the services Akamai offers is the specific ability to deliver different content to consumers in different geographic regions. Such services have legitimate uses, including blunting the impact of distributed denial of service attacks--such as what apparently happened on Oct. 19--according to Netcraft.

Marie Alexander, chief executive officer of Akamai rival Quova, a data services firm, said clients usually hire companies such as Akamai and Quova to deliver specific content that is important to different geographic regions. But, she said, none of Quova's clients have ever used its geo-targeting capabilities to simply block access.

Alexander said that from a security standpoint, rather than denying access to certain IP addresses, it would be far more effective to keep hackers at the site in order to monitor them and gather more information about what they're trying to do. If you just block their IP address, they'd find another way into the site.

Akamai declined to comment for this story. A Netcraft representative told MediaPost that when he tried to contact Akamai, he was told that Akamai is not at liberty to discuss its clients.

GeorgeWBush.com did not return phone calls seeking comment.

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