It’s the contest to find Birmingham’s most stylish person. And it’s so popular that it nearly fell victim to what is feared to be a trans-Atlantic vote-rigging campaign.
The Style Birmingham website was bombarded with nearly a million hits from the US when voting opened this week. The move, a 'Denial of Service' attack on www.StyleSearch08.co.uk, was in the early hours of Tuesday and targeted the site’s US-based server which also hosts several other major websites.
It could have allowed hackers to gain control of the website but the attempt was foiled by the inbuilt security system which brought the site down as a precaution. None of the votes were affected.
With 500 members of the public snapped at some of the city’s most stylish venues, the top 100 – as voted for by visitors to the mini-site – will be invited to a finalists’ party at Gatecrasher GB nightclub next Sunday, where a panel of judges will select their top 10.
Voting will then be reopened to allow the public to choose the most stylish man and woman in Birmingham, with the winners being announced at the Style Awards, supported by The Birmingham Post, on October 23.
Kevin Breese, chairman of Retail Birmingham’s marketing group, said: “Our scouts had been scouring the streets of Birmingham to find the most stylish people in the city last month, and voting opened online on Monday.
“More than 500 votes were received as soon as the site was opened, which we had expected, but that night it really slowed down and we knew something was wrong, which is when we found out someone had tried to hack into our server, and others, in the States.
“During that hour or so on Tuesday morning we were getting around 3,000 hits a minute, from hundreds of different computers.”
Currently the top male entrant in the competition is 21-year-old Dayle, found by scouts at Apres last month, and Rashbir, an 18-year-old woman snapped at The Mailbox last Friday.
City-based web designers 383 Project were commissioned by Retail Birmingham to create the Style Search ‘08 pages and last night the company’s creative director John Newbold remained adamant “no votes were logged” to affect the voting.
He said: “StyleSearch08.co.uk was taken offline after the server hosting the site was hit over half a million times in a short period.
“Most of these hits were part of a Denial of Service attack on the StyleSearch site at which point security systems put in place by us resulted in a short amount of downtime on the site whilst we looked in to what had occurred.
“During this time no votes that had been previously cast were lost and no votes were cast unfairly. We have since blocked the offending IP addresses that the attack originated from and provided Retail Birmingham with these details.
“Legitimate votes are now being cast at an average rate of three a minute. It’s only regrettable that someone’s unsuccessful efforts to rig the results resulted in a short amount of downtime.”
Jez Higgins, an independent programming expert based in Moseley, Birmingham, said: “Online votes have been prey to pranks and gaming for as long as there have been online votes. If there’s prestige or some kind of glamour attached, they’re probably more likely to be attacked. Since the mitigating steps are straightforward, it looks pretty naive not to adopt them.”