AOL Watch ("The AOL List"): Flash Attack

David Cassel (
Tue, 30 Dec 1997 16:53:48 -0800 (PST)

			F l a s h   A t t a c k


AOL's NetNoir area had a message for visitors Monday afternoon. 

"Our hosts sure aren't too bright." 

The explanation came in the area's title bar.  "NetNoir - The Black
Network" had been renamed "Attacked again -- thanks to Spin, Crit, and

High-tech vandals had already hit the area less than three weeks earlier. 
( )  "We think they figured out how
they got in," NetNoir President and CEO David Ellington told AOL Watch at
the time.  But Monday's vandals left a message identifying the new
security procedure -- "AOL's Rainman password protection" -- and saying it
"wasn't too much of a challenge to bypass."  

The breaches may continue.  "There's only so much protection you can put
up," NetNoir's Production Manager Hakeem Oseni conceded.  "Where there's a
will, there's a way.  Nothing is really impossible, nothing is absolutely

Seizing the opportunity, the attackers left a kind of rebuttal to the
CEO's remarks on their previous attack.  "In his response to last month's
'hack', E. David Ellington compared NetNoir to an AOL forum dedicated to
French culture," they wrote in one compromised area.  "That was a poor
analogy Dave," they taunted.  "Go back to school."  The message also
pointed visitors to the hacker web site  ("Think of us as
CNN's obnoxious little brother," the page advises. []) 

NetNoir's Production Manager wasn't impressed.  "I was kind of like,
whatever," he told AOL Watch.  The altered text was detected immediately,
because "All the producers were on-line when it happened."  An hour later,
keyword NetNoir was restored, and the manifesto was eliminated within
fifteen minutes.  "I'm sure it had alot of valid points," Oseni stated,
simply by virtue that "everyone's argument is valid to them.  Hey -- it's
a free country."  But he disputed the vandals' charge of racism.  "If
you're interested in black culture, you come to NetNoir.  It's supposed to
be a networking place." 

Even before the vandals hit, one problem persisted.  The attackers'
rebuttal appeared next to a photograph which originally accompanied a
personal ad -- a "Club NetNoir" subscriber seeking someone to "compliment
my black male strength".  But ironically, he was "taken off the market"
several months ago.  "As of the last couple of months, that special
someone has found me," he told AOL Watch.  "I have no idea why my picture
is still being shown..." His picture appeared Monday with the caption "I'm
looking for a strong black woman...."  (until vandals changed its caption
to "Spin, Crit, and Hex in 1997.") 

("We just randomly pick our members of the day," Oseni acknowledged,
saying the photos were drawn from a database submitted by users.  "I don't
think the hackers were after him,"  Oseni cautioned.  "They were after

At least 28 AOL areas have had their content altered since April.  But the
force most feared is AOL themselves.  Subscribers trying to access the
"free ISP" offer at became concerned that AOL had
blocked it when the site couldn't be accessed.  In fact, the webmaster of reports the only problem was his site's popularity. 
It's received one hit every 30 seconds throughout the last 24 hours.  He's
beefed up capacity, and eager to maintain momentum, is telling visitors to
"Make someone happy today:  tell a friend to tell a friend and pass it


One AOL subscriber reports that a few months ago, her computer stated
crashing every day, four days in a row.  On the fifth day, they logged
onto AOL, "only to be greeted with AOL's full screen ad for......FIRST AID

It was an unfortunate coincidence.  After several of her friends reported
the same problem, the angry subscriber concluded that AOL "had been
PURPOSELY crashing me for those four days." 

        David Cassel
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