Scribblings Resurrection

Tsunami hacking not what it seems?

Saturday, 29 January 2005

British Telecom may end up with egg on their face over an event which they and the Metropolitan Police interpreted as an attempt to hack into the Disaster Relief Committee’s Tsunami fund but which Boing Boing says was simply a bloke giving money to the fund while using a non-standard web browser1.

The alleged crime was to use the Lynx text-only browser from a Unix box2. An over-zealous (or more likely clueless) BT employee saw the report in the server’s logs, decided it was a hacking attempt and called the cops. Armed police with a van were then dispatched to the “hacker’s” house where they broke in and arrested him. Some reports say he was eating lunch at the time.

The BBC is reporting the same event, I think, as a raid on a suspected hacker but makes no mention of the Lynx browser. So far as they are concerned it was what the cops said it was. They add that the man is 28 and lives in Bishopsgate3.

The BBC quotes a DEC spokeperson as saying the systems in place meant the attempted breach was identified and blocked very quickly. What on earth can that mean if Boing Boing is right?

1 What’s a ‘non-standard browser’ anyway? From my point of view the most non-standard browser around is Microsoft’s Internet Explorer which follows its own weird and sometimes wonderful path when displaying web pages written to recognised standards.

2 I sometimes look at this site using an online copy of Lynx via the Unix command line on my Mac (it’s a great way of checking the underlying speed of the server instead of that of my usual browser). I wonder if I tried to make a donation whether I’d find hoards of police hammering at the door a while later? Using an online Lynx might look even worse to some clueless lunatic at BT. Hmmm…

3 Blimey, people actually live in Bishopsgate? Must be one heck of a rich hacker.

Posted 29 January 2005, 01:09 GMT