Utah website targeted by hackers tied to immigration debate

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SALT LAKE CITY -- In the tense political climate crated by a tough immigration law recently passed in Arizona, does owning a business aimed at the Hispanic population make you a target for political backlash? The owners of a Utah-based magazine say yes, and they think this is only the beginning.

"This morning when I got up, I was having a hard time getting into the back end of the website," Tareq Butler said.


As the publisher, and editor and chief Avances magazine, Butler often updates content throughout the day, but he knew the moment he tried to log in something was wrong. Then he got a call from one of his employees, who had some bad news: the website had been hacked.

Instead of finding the regular homepage, visitors saw what Butler describes as "kind of a dripping blood-type thing."

"It looked like a very, very angry hack, as if they were trying to intimidate," Butler said.

The message shows the Albanian flag; Butler says he has no idea what it means. The hackers also changed the password, but the meaning of that, Butler says, was hard to miss.

"It was changed to ‘H8 Mexicans;' kind of an acronym for hate," Butler said.

Butler says Avances is the largest Hispanic magazine in the state, and lately their audience has more than doubled. He says their frequent coverage of Arizona's new immigration bill has been creating a lot of buzz on the site.

Owner Tareq Butler says Avances is the largest Hispanic magazine in the state, and lately its audience has more than doubled.
Owner Tareq Butler says Avances is the largest Hispanic magazine in the state, and lately its audience has more than doubled.

Butler traced the hack to Washington state and learned the same hackers were responsible for attacking several other sites.

"I was really worried that we'd lost our complete data base and that we had potentially lost the ability to be up and running for maybe even a week," Butler said.

But the site was back up and running by afternoon. Now, Butler's just hoping none of his customers were scared off.

"I'm hoping this didn't throw them off from coming to the website," he said.

Butler says he has upped the security settings on his website and doesn't think the hackers will be able to take it over again.

Meanwhile, though some in Utah say the new Arizona law is unconstitutional and amounts to nothing more than racial profiling, some lawmakers are preparing to introduce similar legislation here in the state. A new poll shows a majority of residents would support it.

In an exclusive Dan Jones poll for KSL and the Deseret News, 65 percent of the respondents said they would strongly or somewhat favor a similar law here in Utah. Just 30 percent say they would strongly or somewhat oppose a law like Arizona's.

Immigrants say the ripple of fear is spreading from Arizona to Utah.

"This law, if it passes in Utah, it will be really hard to call police, 'cause they will ask you for your status, so it will be really hard for everybody here," says one illegal immigrant, who asked that KSL News identify her as Diana.

Diana admitted she is living in Utah illegally. She says she's tried, unsuccessfully, for years to gain citizenship.

If an immigration law similar to Arizona's were to be enacted in Utah, she says she would be fearful to call in an emergency, even it if were a life or death situation.

E-mail: jstagg@ksl.com

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Jennifer Stagg


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