A weekend hacker contest defaced hundreds of Web sites around the world, security experts said on Monday, but did not affect most major government or e-commerce operations on the Web.
Experts were divided on the impact of the so-called "Defacer's Challenge" on Sunday, with some calling it a significant disruption and others saying it was nothing beyond the normal level of hacking activity.
Zone-H, a Web site that monitors cyber attacks and tallied the number of sites hit, said it was shut down briefly by the hackers even though it is just "a neutral observer."
"Yesterday, July 6th has to be remembered as the messiest day in the whole Internet history," Estonia-based Zone-H said in a statement.
But US-based security firm TruSecure said the contest was most likely the work of one individual and ended up hitting a few poorly defended Web sites, or "low hanging fruit."
"This contest was invisible in the underground," TruSecure said in a statement.
TruSecure said a few security experts "seized upon this marginal, fringe effort and given it far more publicity than it deserves.
Zone-H said that the media attention attracted more hackers.
"Nothing would have happened, if only the media didn't pay so much attention turning a non-case into something useful to fill the empty summer newspapers," the site said.
Zone-H published a partial list of the sites defaced or shut down, with no apparent pattern, including sites from the US, France, Brazil, Germany and the Netherlands.
Peter Allor, manager of the X-Force threat analysis center at Internet Security Systems, said that Zone-H's tally amounted to 500 to 600 sites after removing duplicates.
But he said some sites may not have reported being hit, to avoid drawing attention to security problems.
While many of the major Web sites appear to have held off attackers, Allor said a number of smaller sites were hit.
"A lot of folks who may not have been aware of security issues before certainly became aware of them this past week," he said.
Black and white
The international hacking contest set for Sunday by a so-called "black hat" hacker group, referring to those described as malicious hackers, as opposed to "white hat" hackers who seek out security flaws to help repair them.
The FBI, which frequently investigates hacker attacks, said on Monday it had not been made aware of any incidents nor asked to probe the weekend contest, said spokeswoman Jan Caldwell.
The "Defacer's Challenge" Web site had been removed by a Web hosting firm last week, but on Monday was back online, stating that the contest was over and that the "prizes" of free Web space were to be awarded.
"I have a good news about the awardings, two guys offer to me more two webhosting packages, so now will have awardings, for first, second and third winners," said a statement on the Web site.
"The points will be counted and published here day 8th july."
The site was operated by a hacker known only as Eleonora(67), writing in poor English.
"When I Eleonora(67), had the idea to create this contest, was to peoples from underground, however got a big attention from media," said the statement.
"I m receiving support from many peoples, that are joining this contest, i wanna say thank you very much for everybody."