The Olympic Games were Hacked

Another 0100 years have passed and the Olympic games have come to a close.  While most of the world fixated on the athletes and their events, a few of us focused our attention on the competitive hacking in cyberspace.  This year's largest event appeared to be that of "web defacement", with several countries demonstrating impressive efforts.

Prior to the Olympic Games starting, hackers began their participation.  With the scarcity of tickets and their high demand, the anticipated internet scams provided anyone with a credit card, fictional access to the event.  Websites, beijingticketing.com and beijing-tickets2008.com, were shut down after claiming to sell legitimate tickets to the Olympics, when actually they didn't.  Most people were shocked by this new fraudulently deceptive use of the internet.   This is why you should stick with the safer, traditional purchasing of tickets, in person, from scalpers.

If it's on TV, then it's usually online.  The prevalence of internet program viewership can be highlighted by the season finale of Lost.  Watched by 10 million online, compared with the Nielson rating estimates of 12.5 million, this demonstrates the closing gap of these two mediums.  Peer-to-peer file sharing and the prevalence of bit-torrents have provided a simple (but not necessarily legal) means of watching TV and movies, at the discounted price of "free".

However, sporting events are an exception.  For most, the only way to watch sports, are to watch them live.  Did you ever record the Super Bowl to watch later that week?  I didn't think so.  So this creates a technological challenge to internet viewers, since one can't download a bit torrent of a live event, unless it is being seeded through a time machine (no...not a Leopard backup).

Several methods of watching the games live online were attempted.  Numerous Google shortcuts were created to view event schedules and results, without having to visit the official Olympic web site.  YouTube reportedly hosted coverage of the Olympics, but was supposedly inaccessible to US online viewers. One technique people used, involved setting up a proxy connection to another country and then navigating to a site with live coverage.  Although, this only worked for a limited amount of time.  Other viewing "hacks" included zip code spoofing, for west coast viewing on NBC, without the three hour delay. 

Several media sources reported that connection attempts to Chinese sites (the .cn domain), including the official Olympic Web site, from users of US military networks (the .mil domain) were denied access.   Considering the barrage of cyber attacks against the US military and government, perhaps they should adopt a similar policy of access denial.

A website for US Olympic champion, Michael Phelps, was defaced by Turkish hackers. The hacked version of the site contained a link, which reportedly led to some sort of Turkish political website.  Although, after personally checking out the site, it appeared to mostly consist of multi-sized Turkish text and a few English words worthy of offensive content filtering.  As a result, Phelps is rumored to be reconsidering his participation in this year's "Aegean Aquatic Throw-down" sponsored by Etox.

The Brazilian Olympic Committee's Web site received some unauthorized redesign, in the form of website defacement.  Apparently, Brazilian hackers, disappointed with their country's performance in the Olympic Games, expressed their frustration digitally towards their own Olympic Committee.  The criticism of their team's athletic performance was presented in the textual replacement of content with, "Brazil stinks in these Olympics".  This well worded display of technical abilities will most likely be the motivating factor towards improved efforts in 2012.Sporting orange uniforms, Hacktivists digitally participated at this year's games.  The web defacement event, left China's Olympic Games website politically colorized.  TheColorOrange project, initiated by Danish artist/activist  Jens Galschiot, is a campaign aimed at raising global awareness of Chinese human rights violations.  By promoting the color orange, they have created a simple, cross-cultural, visually symbolic method of communicating their message.  In response to the unauthorized color change of the Chinese website text, they've denied any responsibility.  Regardless, I've been checking TheColorOrgange's site daily, waiting to see if its text mysteriously turns red.

The events involving infected websites and malicious email attachments had a strong turnout.  One contestant, the New Delhi Television Limited's NDTV, demonstrated its ability to inadequately secure its back-end databases.  Site visitors were able to obtain updated Olympic highlights, while also receiving complimentary malware installation.  Circulating emails claiming to contain official information regarding the Olympic games, exploited the "end user curiosity" vulnerability, injecting malicious code on to the machines of inquisitive and trusting users.

Although hyped by the media as "security expert" and "search engine hacker", Stryde Hax - screen name Mike Walker - is really just a computer user, who happens to be well versed in the art of Google hacking, with a lot of free time on his hands.  Actually, working with the Intrepidus Group grants him some street cred, as it would anyone who hangs out with the security minds of Rohyt Belani  and Mike Zusman.  Although, he did uncover the infamous age discrepancy information, regarding Chinese gymnast He Kexin.  Despite the overexposure of this news item by the media, it is worth examining  Stryde's logical searching strategies, his findings and conclusory analysis.  While he really performed most of the legwork in this Google forensic discovery, I still have to give props to the NY Times, for unearthing this information first.  I decided to perform my own investigation on this matter, however, since my methodology for exhaustive research usually consists of just looking things up on Wikipedia, I found nothing.  Can't she just be carbon dated?

Last but not least, I'd like to mention the women's Olympic field hockey team.   Their 8th place finish didn't result in disappointment expressed through website defacement, nor were any of the teams' members discovered to be 8th graders.  However, they did receive some cognitive performance enhancement from their mental skills coach, Colleen Hacker.

...and yes, there are still groups of "cyber-athletes" pushing for the adoption of video gaming as an Olympic sport.

Send your silicon medals to me at: greyhat@computer.org

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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