PR Hacks

From May 30, 1997 (

The lost-world column stirred some emotions. So in all fairness, I will re-visit the idea of PR hacks.

Early in my internet career I knew some hackers. They broke into remote systems for fun or for agenda. Some of these hackers were immature and sexually deprived. Other hackers were politically saavy and left their social agenda on the table. There were also of course the segment that broke into systems for the challenge of defeating a security wall. The last deviant group, and a small minority, were the deviants; looking to wipe out data, leave viruses or possible to comit felonies without reprise.

All of these hackers were technically skilled in systems, security and programming. Very few of them had any artistic skill, but there were a few.

There is also another kind of hacker, which shows up in “inside jobs”. These men and women have physical access to the systems in question and get past the firewall using this access against the wishes of their superiors.

This brings us to hacks on the web, where substitute html and imagery is placed on a web server against the will of the server administrators. Some victims over the past 2 years have been: The Spot, CIA, The US Justice Department, The Well and of course, The Lost-World. These sites have claimed to be hacking victims against their will.

In all of these cases, the media has published stories of dangerous hackers getting into remote systems seemingly easily. The general response from the mass audience is varying degrees of discomfort in the knowledge that hackers can get into remote systems, possible our own server or desktop.

The main point that I wanted to make was the lack of sufficient research by the media to ascertain the source of the hack. Specifically, to see if the hack was indeed, a hoax.

There is almost no way to prove that any of the above-mentioned sites were hacked or hoaxed beyond a shdow of a doubt. One way to raise suspicion however is Motive. The CIA, Justice Dept, and the Well were maliciously hacked in ways that marred the reputation of the site in question. The well might have lost customers due to their security image being shaken. The CIA and Justice Dept, had pornography and political slurs plastered over their pages. Hardly what you would call positive public relations.

The Spot (last year) and the Lost World both claimed hacks that were reported in major publications, online and off. The only reaction to these “hacks” was a major increase in traffic to the website. The motive is not that off a hacker, but those of a PR agent. The lost-world site was replaced with the duck-world, including fully functional imagemaps and links.

Either this was an inside job, or the most benign good-natured, graphically skilled hackers in the world. Maybe these bizarro-hackers will beocme the digital equivalent of Robin Hood, hacking the rich and amusing the poor.

There is no way to prove these “hacks” are hacks or hoaxes. One can look at the created dates and the last modified dates of a file, but that can be faked. if is a case of, their word against no ones word.

My article was my way of calling a hoax, when seemingly no one else spoke up.

Leave a Reply