DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: Hit the Road, Hack
I really wanted to use this week’s column to write about beer, about how it’s the fastest growing industry in the valley and how cool it is that punk rock home-chemistry experiments have turned something that tasted like Budweiser to something that tastes like magic.
But instead I have to write about something far less whimsical: we got hacked. And it’s not the first time.
The Rogue Valley Messenger‘s site has been targeted three times since the start of this year. First by anti-Israel activists, then by extortionists and finally by some dickish teenager in Taiwan that just wanted to hot-rod on our hard drives on a Friday night. None cared about The Messenger specifically. They attacked Drupal sites en masse, replacing countless pages with some trashy Angelfire ripoff and—even more offensive—bad music that automatically started playing. Shudder. Have you no decency or taste hackers? Did you also wear toe-socks and Crocs whilst diddling your keyboards?
The most recent hack was the headshot, corrupting so many files that it isn’t worth the months offline it would take to repair it.
Of course, this all happened the same week that more than 4 million federal employees also had their data thieved, and not long after the epic hack that derailed Sony Entertainment which wasn’t long after The Fappening which wasn’t long after Target’s credit card info was stolen which wasn’t long after J.P. Morgan Chase and Home Depot and so on. Cybercrime is estimated to cost $575 billion a year, a number big enough to make it the 27th largest economy in the world.
Comparatively that makes our dinky site getting thoroughly kiboshed seem like small potatoes.
But considering that we had to toss the site and start fresh this week on top of everything else it takes to put the paper out, we definitely don’t see it that way. To coin an old innuendo: it’s not the size of the site but what you do with it. And as more of our lives become intertwined with the web, from banking to recreation to the eventual adoption of self-driving cars and health-monitoring systems, the existential impacts increase exponentially.
Hacking puts people’s personal and professional lives through the ringer for a lark, or under the lame excuse of trying to highlight security flaws––by criminally exploiting them. Here’s a better idea: don’t. Maybe it’s just cause I was raised on Star Trek, but I take a real prime directive tact here: you internet your way and we’ll internet ours. End of story. You want to burn down a house? Fine. But burn down your own.
Obviously, plenty of folks don’t see it that way. And whenever legal fixes like SOPA or PIPA—not endorsing, just referencing (and yes, I know they’re about piracy, not hacking)—are proposed, they get immediately poo-pooed by digital libertarians who feel that online might should make right and the price of freedom is that every month or two, countless people’s lives get upended for the lulz. But law is required only where culture fails. And clearly, computer geeks, your culture is failing. You might want to get on fixing that before someone hacks a dam or a power grid or a 911 system and incurs a backlash that makes the federal indictment for data theft that drove hacker Aaron Schwartz to suicide look tame. For culture to remain unmolested it has to be self-policing. And while the white hats of the world are fighting the good fight, their philosophy needs to be baked into the ethos of using the web in any fashion, because while it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch, you’re the bunch that gets spoiled.
In other news, we launched the new roguevalleymessenger.com this week. We actually wanted to redo it and like this design better, but due to the amount of data lost, it’s not yet fully functional. Sorry about that. We’ll be phasing in new features and archives over the next month or so. If you find that anywhere near as frustrating as we do, then relax and have a beer. This issue has plenty of info on where to do so.