"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 2 September 1995. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Just Another Media Hack

[Hackers/(not) Hackers]

"This is going to be a lame,

cheesy, promotional site for a

movie. Nothing more..."


"Hackers, the new action

adventure movie from those

idiots in Hollywood, takes you

inside a world where there's no

plot or creative thought,

there's only boring rehashed



So reads the hacked Web page for

MGM/United Artist's Hackers

site, our newest study in

(failed) media manipulation.


Not being regular readers of

alt.2600, our first run-in with the

Hackers story was an article by

Elizabeth Weise for the

Associated Press, in what looks

to be a warmed-over press

release, including a helpful

plot synopsis of the film and

opening dates...yet another

publicity stunt by a media

marketing firm gone amuck?


Cruising to the Hackers Web site,

you'll find, in addition to the

dictated-by-Netscape layout, a

conveniently prominent link to

the hacked Hackers site, and

links to mail from the alleged

hacker himself...the first

supposedly informing the site

maintainers of his use of

"ub3rt00lz" to (in words

wonderfully reminiscent of

Freud's in Civilization and its

Discontents) "urinate upon

[their] firewall", demonstrating

his "k-rad ubertechnique(tm)".

You're allowed to get just a

little suspicious, since even

marketing types can run some

text through a B1FF filter.


Following quickly on the heels of

the first message, the second

letter available for public

consumption conveys the hacker's

"deepest apologies" and talks

about "damage I have done (even

though it was unintentional)",

though we're not quite sure what

might have been munged besides

the Web pages themselves...this

second note concludes with:


"I'd rather not go to prison for

what was at heart a prank. I

hope you agree that would serve

no good purpose. I'm not an ad

man, but it's just possible you

can use what I did to promote

your movie. It would certainly

be better publicity than being

behind the prosecution of a

hacker, or the persecution of

his community."



So what happened? There's a media

prank here somewhere, but is it

being pulled off by "the

hacker", who is quoted on

details outside of the letter in

the AP article, or by MGM/UA,

who's reaping all the benefits?

Or Digital Planet, the company

which put together the Hackers

Web site?


One gets the feeling that Digital

Planet was smarting from having

its Web space "hacked", since the

Hackers page is also kind enough

to provide the viewing public

with the definitions of crackers

and hackers...crackers being

"young teenage punks who

are...malicious" and whose

"level of education/intelligence

on the system...is very

low"...this, versus a hacker,

the subject of the fine MGM/UA

film, who, if we're to

understand the definition

offered, would never dream of

altering data - including, say,

modifying pages on a Web site.

Of course, Digital Planet,

which, in words on its corporate

Web, is "able to handle all of

our client's needs in-house",

including the "set-up,

maintenance and periodic

updating of Internet sites",

must have a very high level of

education/intelligence on the

system...so that we can only

conclude, if the site really was

hacked, that MGM/UA said "no"

when Digital Planet asked "You

want security with that?"


Theories which might place MGM/UA

and Digital Media not so

obviously as perpetrators of the

hack but conspirators in it, in

that the companies might have

left obvious security holes in

the system in order to encourage

and publicize an attack, are, to

an extent, eviscerated by those

too-prideful definitions.

Corroborating evidence is the

copy for the hacked site which

we could never imagine making it

past a MGM/UA executive; a

different version of the hacked

page lending some credibility to

the timeline presented in the AP

story of the page being hacked,

replaced, then hacked again,

then replaced again and made

available via a link; and claims

on alt.2600 that Digital Media

is dumping their Internet

service provider (so much for

everything being done in-house).

Not to mention Digital Planet's

open job posting for a System



But what does it take to hack

a little corroborating evidence?

A few co-conspirators and a

friendly administrator at

another Web site?


So, in the end, what do we

have? A hacked Web site,

a hacked hack, and the

press doing what it does best -

more press releases. Or not.

After all, who gives a fuck?

The end result is Another

Fine Hack by your friendly

corporate entity, Co-opters 'R'

Us - who woulda thunk anything



Click Here for a Big Waste of

Bandwidth, 10 frames per second

(Quicktime, 9.0 Mb)

courtesy of Webster