PBS has become the latest victim of a concerted hacking
campaign. The party responsible is a familiar one -- they're the same
group that recently hacked Sony Corp. But this time around their motives
were different. The hackers this time were using the hack to show their
support for embattled website Wikileaks.
I. PBS Stirs the Pot With Wikileaks Special
A PBS special "WikiSecrets" aired last Tuesday as part of the news agency's FRONTLINE program,
which tackles tough issues. The program offered a surprisingly
comprehensive view that showcased various parties offering both the praise of Wikileaks and
its chief (suspected) informant U.S. Army Spc. Bradley Manning, and criticism
of the aforementioned.
But advocates of the controversial leaks site took issue with the negative
portions of the program. Particularly touchy to supporters was a section in
which writers for the British newspaper Guardian claimed that Wikileaks founder
Julian Assange had said that Iraqi and Afghani allies to the U.S. "deserve
As Guardian is an extremely prestigious publication, on par
with The New York Times in the U.S., this was a heady
accusation. Supporters of the site blasted PBS and Guardian claiming
that Mr. Assange's comment was taken out of context or fabricated.
Among those offended were a group of savvy hackers.
II. Tupac's Back?
On Sunday, the PBS blog "PBS Newshour" saw a
surprising story get posted, claiming that late-rapper Tupac Shakur was back.
This wasn't some sort of strange take on the recent Meek Mill hit; it
actually claimed the late rapper was found alive.
The post claimed that Mr. Shakur actually did not die from the 1996 shooting
and was instead "alive and well in a small resort in New Zealand".
It cited "locals" as a source and claimed that Notorious B.I.G.
was also alive and had lived in the town for some time.
Tupac Shakur, perhaps the most famous gangster rapper of the 1990s, was
murdered in Sept. 1996. Notorious B.I.G. (real name Christopher George
Latore Wallace) was murdered soon after in March 1997. The murders ended
the multi-platinum careers of both artists and shocked the rap industry.
The murders have lent fodder to conspiracy theories -- both serious and
sensational over the years, thanks to the unsolved nature of both murders and
questionable ties between LAPD officers and thuggish Death Row Records CEO
Marion "Suge" Knight, Jr.
PBS was left scrambling to remove the post and others. The
news organization posted a statement, commenting:
Last night there was an intrusion to PBS's
servers. The erroneous information on the 'PBS Newshour' site has been
corrected. The intruders also posted login information to two internal
sites—one that press use to access PBS Pressroom and an internal
communications website for stations.
Teresa Gorman, who works in social media and online engagement for the PBS
program "NewsHour," published a series of
Twitter posts today commenting on the breach. She
comments, "If you missed it: our site has been accessed by hackers. Thanks
for staying with us."
III. LulzSec Claims Responsibility for Post
In a series of updates on
Twitter a team of hackers who call themselves "LulzSec" mocked PBS,
pointing out the hack and eventually claiming responsibility for it.
The hackers wrote:
"Oh s–, what happened to @PBS?"
"What's wrong with @PBS, how come all of its servers are rooted? How come
their database is seized? Why are passwords cracked? :("
After posting links to usernames and passwords, the group wrote:
"Oh yes, that's right... #Sownage tomorrow. We hope. We decided to
obliterate @PBS instead out of distraction."
In addition to the Tupac page, LulzSec or its affiliates posted a story
entitled "Unicorns Dragons and Chix With Swords". They also
created a page titled "FREE BRADLEY MANNING. F– FRONTLINE!" that
contained the text "ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO LULZSEC."
Some of the pages are still available courtesy of Google's or Freeze.it's
cache, though they've been removed from PBS's site   .
LulzSec has released a longer statement via pastebin, commenting:
Greetings, Internets. We just finished watching
WikiSecrets and were less than impressed. We decided to sail our Lulz Boat over
to the PBS servers for further... perusing. As you should know by now, not even
that fancy-ass fortress from the third shitty Pirates of the Caribbean movie
(first one was better!) can withhold our barrage of chaos and lulz. Anyway,
unnecessary sequels aside... wait, actually: second and third Matrix movies
sucked too! Anyway, say hello to the insides of the PBS servers, folks. They
best watch where they're sailing next time.
The statement was posted along with links to the "gathered"
IV. Who is LulzSec?
The group's bio asserts:
We are LulzSec, a small team of 80-year-old men
and people who smoke on webcam. Right?
The group, which says it has no affiliation with Anonymous (who shares similar
adversaries) is part of the growing hacker/griefer web movement, that contains such players as GNAA (whose full name
contains a profane racial slur) and the slightly more sedate Gnosis, who hacked Gawker Media last year.
LulzSec gained attention for being one of the groups to hack several Sony sites via SQL injection last
week. SQL injections attacks are considered rather "easy" hacks
-- by contrast the PBS attack appeared much more sophisticated and
quote: by Amedean on May 30, 2011 at 8:29 PMFor real, why don't they attack highly partisan media outlets like FOX News .... Cry me a fricken river for Wikileaks - lame nut hackers
quote: They're attacking PBS now? Possibly the closest thing to a non-partisan news outlet we have left
quote: Freedom on the internet is tenuous enough
quote: So explain to me how does defacing a public news organization (even with chalk on an outside wall) help to bring light to any perceived government cover-ups or help to reduce the amount of suppression of information to the people of the world?
quote: I hope that groups like these (WikiLeaks, Anonymous, LulzSec, etc) continue to fight the good fight.
quote: These alleged concerns are in fact just clever ways of disguising a growing movement within the US government to suppress dissenting views, eviscerate free speech and control the press.
quote: All they did was hack the site and place their signature page on it.
quote: They best watch where they're sailing next time.
quote: I never said there was a connection between the groups. I merely pointed out the irony in trying to promote transparancy, freedom of the press, and free speech by attempting to persuade others to not make use of those rights.
quote: No effort to obscure? What they did is a form of punishment the intent of which is to say don't run stories like that again.
quote: Responsible mature people would debate the issues in open forums, or run their own stories on their own mediums. They would not resort to illegal activity, threats, and coercion to get their points across.