TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Eastern European hackers cracked the website of this Northern Michigan city, causing it to repeatedly crash and using it as a platform to blast hundreds of thousands of email messages.

The cyber attacks from an unknown source spanned two months from August through mid-October. They took the form of distributed denial of service attacks, in which hundreds of computers are organized - often without their owners' knowledge - to overwhelm a specific website with requests, causing it to crash.

A consultant hired to address that problem discovered the city's site was also used to launch hundreds of thousands of fraudulent emails. City officials aren't sure if the messages were used as spam or to attack another website.

The city maintains its internal computers separately, so the web attacks did not affect confidential information such as credit card payments, said assistant city manager Makala Vitous.

The attacks began after the person who maintained the city's website left the job, and the position went unfilled due to budget constraints.


Details for this story were reported by The Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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