It’s been touted in a few places today that two Liberal Democrat owned domain names, www.liberaldemocrats.org.uk and co.uk have been “hacked”. Until a couple of hours ago, those sites redirected to this Tuition Fees-related video on YouTube.
A few people did a quick lookup on the “whois” database for UK domains and found it apparently registered to Liberal Democrat HQ. Cue stories of the site either being hacked or it being an “inside job” by disgruntled staff.
A little digging reveals a much longer and less nefarious story. Firstly, we can look at the Google Cache of the page, which shows a link to a YouTube video of Gordon Brown. That’s pretty odd for an official party site.
To get further back we can jump onto the rather useful “Wayback Machine” to see a history of sites at that address. There, we find random sites attacking Surrey Police, going on about legal proceedings and anti-Gordon Brown attacks.
Despite the anti-Labour sentiment, it is pretty clearly not an official Liberal Democrat site.
In fact, it looks like it dates back to squabbles in what most people would regard as the “early days” of the Internet. One keen New Statesman reader found a story on The Register from May of 2001 that mentions some domain squatting going on and one reader registering the domain names supposedly “hijacked” today in retaliation.
The whois information states the domain was registered in August 2002 so it appears the initial registrant allowed it to lapse and someone else picked it up since. As for the registration details on the domain name, supposedly fingering the party itself? You can put whoever you want as the owner of a domain name. The details given are exactly what you get if you search for “Liberal Democrats” on Companies House and I don’t believe that’s a coincidence.
There is a reason you don’t put someone else’s details on your domain name, for the same reason you don’t put someone else’s name on your car registration documents – they can do things with it. Which looks like it has happened in this case, as the YouTube video has been removed and the site now goes to a holding page.