Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Hacked . . . uhm, no cracked . . . and back online

One of my websites got hacked recently.

It is not a particularly damaging hack; it merely replaced the entry page with the hacker's signature page. There are two things I find peculiar about this. The first is that this hacker (which in my opinion is merely an amateur cracker) should decide to graffiti this particular website. The vandalized webpage is the long term project I'm working on, Literary Terminology, which is an open encyclopaedia dedicated to literary terms and theories. The project is in its first phase which is in Afrikaans, but will eventually be expanded to Dutch and English. The reason I find this attack strange is because hackers (real ones, not amateur crackers) live by an ethical code, known as the Hacker's Ethic -- one I also subscribe to.

Part of the Hacker's Ethic is the free and open dissemination of information. This is exactly what LiteraryTerminology.Com is about -- providing free quality information. I therefore see this attack as a childish one by a cracker, not a hacker. This "hacker" is definitely not one, I believe, worthy of using the Guy Fawkes mask that is used by Anonymous supporters, which he so proudly pasted on my front page.

The quasi-anarchist in me is quite in favour of the Anonymous when for challenging the world's corrupt and dictatorial governmental regimes and for fighting for Internet freedom. The hacktivist group known as Anonymous act within the Hacker's Ethic. They wouldn't attack a site like mine. First of all, LiteraryTerminology.Com does not really present anything offensive to their sensibility -- nothing for them to became activistic about, and secondly, this website is not connected to any government organization. Basically, we are too small a fish for them to bother with. And we are in fact standing for exactly what Anonymous propagates, the free access to information. Even though LiteraryTerminology.Com has still not officially launched and is still in it's first phase of construction (there is not even a logo yet!), students in South Africa have already started to use it as an Afrikaans source of information on literary terms and theories -- and it is probably the only such dedicated source on all of the internet!

So in short, I believe this "hacker" is only a wannabe Anonymous-member. Interestingly enough, I know that the hacker is probably a 21 year old kid from Saudi Arabia. (Do Saudis have something against Literary Theory in Afrikaans?) I know his probable nationality because he is so proud of hacking into my little website, that he posted it on YouTube to show off his awesome hacking ability and his YouTube profile states his age and country of origin.

At around 0:50 you can see him google for LiteraryTerminology.Com, click on the link, and then show his audience the hacked page with his signature and even email address. Of course I emailed him, just to question his clear misunderstanding of the Hacker's Ethic.

Being in the middle of grading exam papers and simultaneously working on the page layout for a magazine I really don't have the time to try and figure out how to fix the page, so I made a temporary "under construction page" and then thankfully a friend of mine quickly stepped in and easily fixed the problem by replacing some files. (Thanks Franco!)

Things are back to normal over at the LiteraryTerminology.Com -- but there are still more work to be done in the first Afrikaans phase of the project. There are still more literary terms that we have that need to included, and general quality checks that need to be done, and some of the information is outdated and need to be updated. The next phase will be a simultaneous one of adding material we have from Dutch and then starting a cross-translation. The third phase would be to translate the material in English, where upon we will reassess the project. I've been busy on this project for about 3 years now, and a little hiccup like the recent one is not about to stop it. I pray that God will prevent any serious problems preventing us from finishing this useful project. 

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