By Bryan Hance
No one is safe, not even your website
Trust me, I know. My apartment is constantly getting nailed by stoned street punks with markers. Sometimes it looks like my apartment went out partying, drank too much and woke up in a bad tattoo parlor.
I wouldn't mind it if some of the better taggers in town plastered my wall with one of those trip-a-delic murals you see downtown, but a black scrawl by some idiot with a Marks-A-Lot is worthless.
On the other hand, I've found a different kind of tagging entirely, one that's actually fun to keep track of. Ever since my house started looking like an advertisement for Crayola I've been paying more attention to its digital equivalent - hijacked websites.
More and more high profile websites are getting hijacked every day, temporarily losing their corporate banners and storefronts and getting defaced with everything from political rhetoric to ransom notes for imprisoned hackers.
According to www.hacked.net, a website that tracks and archives compromised web pages, there were 360 site hijackings from March to December of last year. Yahoo!, UNICEF, Coca-Cola, the Department of Justice, FOX television, the CIA, the NCAA and the country of Andorra were some of 1997's more high-profile hijackings.
No one is safe, not even Tucson's own Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. For a few hours on Jan. 3, the D-M website lost its patriotic photos of fighter planes to a Spice Girls banner and a tag from "Team CodeZero 1998."
While it's true that most website attacks, like the one on D-M, are full of the same ego-ridden crap you see downtown, it can vary. Political hacks are becoming more and more prevalent, like the rash of hacks following the Hong Kong handover. Corporate criticisms are on the rise too, as hackers become more prone to flaunting their opinions directly in the company's faces.
Of course, there are a few that just don't fall into any category. The Claire Danes hacker, for example, has hit countless sites, most recently NASA's. He's everywhere. What sets him (or her, who knows) apart is the fact that he does no damage, takes no credit for his actions and sends no stupid shouts-outs to other hacker crews. He only professes his undying love for - you guessed it, Ms. Danes. "You are so beautiful it hurts to look at you," is the latest version of his "Claire Danes security notice."
Other attacks are just absurd for absurdity's sake, like the one that took place on UNICEF's site Jan. 7. For a few hours the United Nations Children's Fund site carried pictures of armed, waify supermodels- and a ransom note. The hackers warned that if Kevin Mitnick, a hacker serving time in a federal jail in Los Angeles, was not freed by Feb. 2, "...our starving models will gorge themselves on 100 starving third world children." UNICEF refused to comment on the specific nature of the threat, only saying their site had been hacked.
So, if you want to see for yourself today what the tagging of the future is going to look like, just take a peek at www.hacked.net and follow some of the links.