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Online media matters

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Hackers threaten news sites’ integrity

Well, it was only a matter of time.

For a long while, I’ve wondered why “hackers” bother defacing Web sites. Sure it’s a way to show-off, much like graffiti tags, but it seems such an adolescent thing to do. Having access to another site’s homepage has so much more potential.

A lot of harm could by done if these people begin changing a site’s content instead of just defacing it. After all, a story posted on The New York Times carries a lot more weight than some misspelt rant against DUMB 4SS J0URNALIZM.

Change the story#8212;or post your own#8212;and your message becomes a lot more powerful.

This is what happened to Yahoo News recently: a hacker altered the content of a story about Dmitry Sklyarov, and allegedly had been changing others over the preceeding three weeks.

The Sklyarov changes were minor, and concerned someone few outside the Internet community know, so the impact was likely small. But imagine the effect of a coordinated hack against two or three major news sites containing a politically explosive message

Even minor, well-publicized changes made somewhat often to a few sites could have serious ramifications on the trustworthiness of the Web#8212;a medium which is just now being seen as credible.

No doubt the major sites have strict security measure’s in place, but now might be a good time for them to make sure.