Visitors to the President's Challenge Physical Activity, Nutrition and Fitness Awards program website on Thursday were in for a surprise when instead of the fitness page they received the following message:
We're taking a little breather.
Our site is down temporarily for maintenance. It'll be up and running again soon, though. In the meantime, we hope you'll get up and go running--or participate in some other activity you enjoy.
The Challenge, a long-standing program of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, had a bigger surprise to those who had accounts on the site. Account users received the following message:
Hackers recently accessed our database, which included personal information such as your username, password, security question and answer, email address, date of birth, city and state, and, if you provided it, your name. The hackers were also able to access data such as your logged activities, your nutrition goals, what groups you are in, and messages you had sent and received within the online tracker.
After we learned about the attack, we quickly took down the President's Challenge website on January 11 and began the process of determining what information the hackers accessed and how it may affect you. We also contacted law enforcement to alert them to the hackers' illegal activity.
It is unclear who attacked the site or why. What is known is that there has been a strong connection in the past year between the Challenge and the Let's Move program promoted by First Lady Michelle Obama. Which leaves one to wonder:
-- Was it a political attack by those supporting commentators who have criticized the first lady for promoting fitness while enjoying that occasional french fry? Doubtful.
-- Is a certain nation-state that shall remain unnamed, in addition to allegedly promoting hacks into our government and company systems, now looking for information on how healthy we are, what exercise programs we prefer, and what we think we should be eating? Hmmm . . . this would bring a whole new dynamic to the information warfare realm.
-- Is it a revolt against the fitness wave by some stereotyped self-proclaimed nerd or geek, whatever his age? Unknown, but always a possibility.
-- Or, is this part of the hacktivist movement against possibly organized exercise efforts that could make Americans conform with fitness norms and structures? Doubtful, especially as Anonymous has not made any claims to the attack and its members were preoccupied the past week attacking Justice, Universal Music, and other government sites and content providers for their support of the SOPA/PIPA bills being debated in Congress.
Law enforcement is investigating so we may know soon enough who was behind the attack on the site that was helping Americans battle the bulge.