Crackers attack epileptics via website

May 9, 2008 | 08:12

Tags: #attack #crackers #fbi

As if making us work long hours cleaning up after them wasn't bad enough, it seems that s'kiddiot crackers aren't content with damaging your digital assets any more: now, they actually want to cause you physical pain, too.

According to an article published by CNet yesterday, crackers exploited a security flaw in the content management system used by the Epilepsy Foundation to create a torrent of spam posts in the support forum on the site. Rather than the usual raft of 'make penis fast' adverts, however, the mass postings had a more sinister payload: animated GIFs displaying rapidly flashing colours.

Epilepsy is a neurological condition which causes its suffers to lapse into seizures which can result in serious injury if you're standing near any hard objects at the time or even in asphyxiation if the tongue is swallowed. The condition affects around fifty million people worldwide.

Epileptic seizures in photosensitive individuals can be triggered by flashing imagery – which is why films and TV shows that use strobe effects are often preceeded by a warning message. By posting animated GIFs featuring pulsating effects to a website directly aimed at epilepsy suffers, the crackers involved were attempting to directly harm the health of complete strangers – the same as walking along the street punching everyone you see in the face.

Thankfully, there have been no reports of major injuries caused by the attack – although several people have contacted the Epilepsy Foundation complaining of severe migraines brought on by viewing the images. The Foundation has also taken steps to ensure that posts to the forums can no longer contain animated images or links to external website, to prevent a similar attack in future.

Eric R. Hargis, president of the Foundation, described the actions of the crackers as "an act of vandalism with the intent to harm people," and reassured visitors that the Foundation has "established deterrents in the system to prevent similar incidences."

Now, I've always known that crackers are a lower sub-species, but it's not until learning of this completely unprovoked attack that I realised just how low they can stoop. I sincerely hope that the perpetrators are suitably impressed with themselves, and I hope that the FBI – currently investigating the matter at the request of the Epilepsy Foundation – pays them a visit soon. Preferably before they move on to torturing cats or drowning grannies.

Have any of the systems you use daily come under attack by crackers in the past, or do you keep up-to-date on security best practices? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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