Bush Campaign Web Site Rejects Non-US Visitors

The official campaign web site for U.S. President George W. Bush appears to be rejecting visitors from most points outside the United States, while allowing access from U.S. locations.

Netcraft monitors web site response times from seven locations, including four within the United States and three in other countries. Since Monday morning, requests to GeorgeWBush.com from stations in London, Amsterdam and Sydney, Australia have failed, while the four U.S. monitoring stations show no performance problems. Web users in Canada report they are able to visit the site.

GeorgeWBush.com site performance from London GeorgeWBush.com site performance from New York

A dynamically updating chart of site performance for GeorgeWBush.com is available here.

On Oct. 21, GeorgeWBush.com began using the Akamai content distribution network to manage traffic to the site, which is hosted at SmarTech Corporation. The shift followed a six hour outage on Oct. 19, which also affected RNC.org, the official web site of the Republican National Committee. Domain name system (DNS) inquiries show requests to GeorgeWBush.com from outside the U.S. being dropped. A request from the U.K. returns a "403 forbidden" response from the server and a web page saying "Access denied: You don't have permission to access http://georgewbush.com on this server."

Content distribution networks (CDN) like Akamai are used by many sites that experience extremely heavy web traffic. Some organizations, including the campaign site of Bush's opponent, Sen. John Kerry, use Akamai specifically to manage file downloads. Akamai's network includes more than 15,000 servers in data centers throughout the world, which store and distribute web site content, easing bottlenecks that can occur when serving a large volume of requests from a single server.

Akamai's EdgeScape service allows web sites to customize content - or exclude visitors - according to geography. Criteria for geography-based content are set by the customer, and implemented by Akamai's network.

Excluding non-U.S. requests could be denying access to the Bush campaign site to some registered voters, including American residents who are living overseas but eligible to vote by absentee ballot. Overseas ballots became an issue in the 2000 election, when backers of Bush and Democratic candidate Al Gore fought for every vote amid legal wrangling over recounts in Florida.

At least 340,000 U.S. military personnel stationed outside the U.S. have requested absentee ballots, according to the Pentagon. Most U.S. soldiers and seamen with Internet access would presumably access the Internet through the .mil domain reserved for the U.S. military, which would allow those requests to be handled differently than other non-US traffic.

Last week's simultaneous outages for GeorgeWBush.com and RNC.org prompted speculation that an electronic attack may have ocurred, as the two sites are hosted on separate web servers. The Bush campaign told media the outage was "no big deal" and offered no specific explanation for the outage.

CDNs can be effective in blunting the impact of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which seek to overwhelm web sites with traffic, leaving them unavailable. Microsoft used a CDN service from Akamai to keep its web site online in August 2003, when the Blaster worm programmed machines to launch a DDoS on the Windows Update site.

Akamai itself came under a DDoS attack in August, when an attack by a large "botnet" of compromised computers controlled by hackers.

Akamai declined comment on the traffic management of GeorgeWBush.com.