ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Several state lawmakers have been targeted by hackers who posted messages on at least two legislators' Facebook pages that they love getting free gifts from lobbyists.
Three Republican and one Democratic state House members, and one Republican staff member have reported that their Facebook have been hacked since the Jan. 5 start of the legislative session, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Monday.
It is unclear how the accounts were accessed, but it may have been over a free wireless network at the state House that visitors, staff members and lawmakers use. In instances in which Facebook accounts were accessed, the owner had used that network.
On Jan. 21, a hacker posted a message on freshman Republican Rep. Donna Lichtenegger's personal Facebook page that read: "I love lobbyists! All the free food and stuff you get. This job is awesome!"
Lichtenegger, R-Jackson, said she generally uses her Facebook page to post a weekly update about her work in the Capitol. She said that she normally uses the House's secured Internet connection but logged on through a public wireless connection for the state House on the day her Facebook page was changed.
Another first-term Republican lawmaker said his Facebook page was changed to praise free gifts from lobbyists. Rep. Dave Schatz, of Sullivan, said he suspects someone gained access to the account through the wireless network.
"I know that I was on the public Wi-Fi connection, and that's when I was hacked," Schatz said. "In a public Wi-Fi setting, they were able to hack into that site and play a little joke."
House Clerk Adam Crumbliss said there has been a "spike" in the number of reported hacking incidents this year.
"We're hearing more about it than we ever have," he said.
Missouri House members have access to the public wireless network, which officials said goes largely unwatched. However, there also is a separate, secure network for lawmakers. Crumbliss said the House wants to ensure individuals using the public network do not need to fear government surveillance. The House previously considered a secured network but users were not satisfied and found the login process cumbersome.
In the Missouri Senate -- where there have been no complaints about comprised accounts -- the Internet networks are monitored.
Amy Niedergerke, the Senate's director of computer information systems, said administrators check the networks for potential viruses or hacking threats.
Other states monitor the public wireless connections in their capitols.
A company that helps to provide and monitor wireless Internet access in the Arizona Capitol said that usage is checked for suspicious activity. The free, public Internet network in the Kansas statehouse is monitored by a security team for threats.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)