Dave Strikes Back
In an inspired burst of copy editing and rewriting, the hacker, who goes by the handle Exiled Dave, made numerous editorial changes: adding facts, inserting taglines and modifying quotes with wild abandon throughout a series of articles about an Orange County man the Federal Government has accused of breaking into hundreds of computers.
Visitors to the Register learned that Microsoft CEO Bill Gates had been arrested by the FBI and charged with breaking into NASA computers, illegally obtaining credit card numbers and credit card fraud.
"William Gates, 20, known online as Shadow Knight and Dark Lord, and known offline as the president of Microsoft breached security systems protecting NASA computers at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena and Stanford University in Palo Alto, according to court documents."
The hacker may also have revealed the identity of an unnamed informant involved in the case by pasting the man's name directly into another story.
A FBI spokesman denied that the man the hacker named was the informant.
In the past, most hackers have settled for relatively crude tagger-style graffiti attacks. Home pages are generally replaced with entirely new versions that can easily be distinguished from a legitimate page.
In last years' Hacking for Girlies attack on the New York Times for example, the home page of the high traffic news site was replaced with a manifesto of sorts which bragged about the hackers skill and criticized the paper - a feat which probably shocked readers and drew attention to the hackers involved but which did little if any real damage in the end.
Security experts warn that such obvious attacks cause far less mayhem than a hacker could cause by using a deft touch.
Changes to the text of a news story - a single word replaced or a single fact altered deep in the body of a story - could easily lead to a far more damaging scenario.
A rumor started by a hacker attack could start a destructive chain reaction, influencing Wall Street, a political contest, or even - in the darkest possible scenario - US foreign policy.
Internet security experts call this kind of attack a "subversion of information" (SOI) attack - a nice geeky way of putting it. Subversion of Information attacks are expected to increase in coming years as the next generation of hackers matures and adopts more sophisticated methods.
Mirrored copy of the hacked OC Register site here. (via attrition.org)