PBS website hacked, defaced after WikiLeaks documentary evokes online ire


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Updated 1:12 p.m. with PBS response

PBS just learned an unpleasant lesson about what happens when you kick an Internet hornet’s nest.


After televising its ‘Frontline: Wikisecrets’ documentary, the public television consortium’s site,, was hacked into and defaced by a group calling itself LulzSec -- a combination of the word security and the Internet argot for laughs had at another’s expense.

The group hit PBS with a series of embarrassing and potentially damaging payloads, posting graffiti-like Web pages, a fabricated story about rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls being alive in New Zealand, and making public a huge cache of phone numbers, logins and passwords apparently of PBS member station websites. The pranksters posted a cached version of the Tupac story, visible here.

PBS acknowledged the attack on Monday, saying it was working to close any remaining security holes, and noting that reader information had not been compromised.

The hacking is the latest in a series of vigilante-type missions from Internet denizens who support WikiLeaks and some of the key players in the story of the leaking site. One of those is Bradley Manning, a former low-level U.S. Army intelligence analyst who has been charged with unlawfully transmitting tens of thousands of sensitive diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, and who is now being held in solitary confinement apparently under severe conditions. (According to his attorney, Manning is denied sheets, forbidden to exercise in his cell and not allowed to sleep between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m.)

The PBS attackers, whose messages included ‘Free Bradley Manning!’ appear to disagree with the way Manning was portrayed in the documentary. The show presents a friend of Manning calling him ‘very depressed,’ and later notes that ‘the case presents an important cautionary note to the theory that lower-level analysts like Manning should have access to such a wide range of intelligence.’

‘Greetings, Internets. We just finished watching WikiSecrets and were less than impressed,’ the attackers wrote. ‘We decided to sail our Lulz Boat over to the PBS servers for further ... perusing.’



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-- David Sarno