NationBuilder, a company that provides web hosting and other services for political organizing, has alerted customers that it is working to bring its services back to normal after a distributed denial of service attack starting Monday.
NationBuilder began experiencing a DDoS attack on Monday, resulting in a full service outage from around 1pm to 5:30pm PT, and intermittent outages through Tuesday morning. A Wednesday morning Twitter update noted: “While we are not declaring victory yet, NationBuilder has been broadly accessible for the last 20 hours or so.”
In the company’s latest update, dated Wednesday, May 21, 12:00pm PT, it noted it had responded immediately to get all sites back online, and has been quickly implementing countermeasures to ensure full service availability. It also noted that attack appears to have only impacted access to customer sites; no data or financial information was stolen.
As for the rationale behind the attack, NationBuilder founder and CEO Jim Gilliam stated, “We are reasonably certain one of our customers was targeted for their political beliefs and the attacks were an attempt to disrupt upcoming elections.”
Gilliam continues, “The only good news to come of this is that we are dramatically stronger than we were before, both in our technical infrastructure and in our effectiveness as a team. We cannot promise this will never happen again, but we can promise that we will continue to invest heavily in our infrastructure to withstand any and all attacks.”
Allowing customers to organize their supporters for $20 a month has been the core focus of NationBuilder’s “Community Organizing System,” which provides a suite of services including website hosting, social media accounts, volunteer recruitment pages, petition platforms, donation pages and a database of voter data and confirmed supporters.
Services like NationBuilder have been giving people the ability to organize online, in a world where many are turning to “hacktivism” to try to silence opposing political viewpoints or bypass established political processes through DDoS and other types of attacks.
This week, for instance, Australian police arrested two alleged hacktivists for their part in security breaches including an attack on Melbourne IT’s Brisbane network in 2012. The hacktivists were allegedly aiming to prove that a lack of security at ISPs and telecos makes them unable to protect information collected through a data retention policy proposed by the government.
The attack on NationBuilder could have inadvertently stifled the sort of grassroots organization that can make changes legally in a democracy.
“We are fiercely committed to serving all of our customers,” Gilliam wrote. “Everyone has the right to organize – in fact, this is the very reason NationBuilder exists.”