The AOL List: Heaven's Gate

David Cassel (
Wed, 2 Apr 1997 16:55:44 -0800 (PST)

			H e a v e n ' s   G a t e


Nothing is sacred.  "I was trying to access the Heaven's Gate web site for
morbid curiosity," one web browser noted, "and instead I got the Why AOL
Sucks page." 

James Egelhof, the AOL List's webmaster at wrote it off as a
crank message--until he received a second comment asking "Where is the
official cult homepage the news was talking about??"

He still dismissed it as a mis-guided prank.  ("On crack.  Definitely," 
he joked in an e-mail message.)  But he became concerned after receiving a
third e-mail which followed the pattern.  "How did you get the Heaven's
Gate URL???" it read.  "I want to read up on those cult freaks that carry
quarters into space...You suck." 

"Something is very wrong," Egelhof told The AOL List.  So the Cornell
freshman entered the domain name into his browser--and it
pulled up his own home page.  "Someone modified the InterNIC's
registration of, set up a nameserver, and directed to me," he told the AOL List. 

He became concerned that his New York ISP was "getting hosed with the
traffic," so he put up a warning message at the top of the "Why America
Online Sucks" page, and is currently working with the appropriate
technicians to correct the registration.

But something worse happened to AOL's content area "The Hub". 

"Maintenance" was the excuse given by a Tech Live staffer. 

"You do not have access to that area," read the software's error message. 

"The system got hacked," says Wendy Dubit--the Hub's director of Business

For half an hour Monday--near the prime hours of 6 pm EST--the Hub was
taken offline after the title bar on its front page was modified by a
hacker.  "All of these urban legends you get about viruses and software
that can download viruses," Dubit ponders philosophically.  "It shows you
that sometimes these things do happen, and that they are true!" 

The hacker replaced the words "The Hub" with "Steve Case is a NIGGER". 
(  "We were down for half an
hour," Dubit concedes.  The Hub is one of AOL's most prominent areas. 
Celebrating the release of Doom64 Tuesday, "we had an auditorium event
with over a thousand people pass through it over the course of the night," 
Dubit says.  The Hub shares the top spot on the default menu's list of 21
channels, along with "The Newsstand."

Just three days earlier, AOL issued a press release announcing the
first-ever sentencing of an AOL hacker.  After his conviction, security
chief Tatiana Gau boasted it showed "AOL is dedicated to stopping hackers
and their activities on the service." 

Maybe not.  Wednesday afternoon found the Hub back on-line.  The message
on one icon: "Come play with us."


Comforting advice came for the Hub's Wendy Dubit--from their astrology
subsection, "Tarot to Go".  Her February birthday makes her an Aquarius...

"At the beginning of the week, you may be feeling a bit discouraged about
the progress you're making," reads the horoscope.  "But there's no need to
worry, because the dejection will fade after a few days."

        David Cassel
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