PBS.org is hacked after show on WikiLeaks airs

By David Sarno

Los Angeles Times

Published: Monday, May 30 2011 7:18 p.m. MDT

LOS ANGELES — A hacker group displeased about a recent PBS documentary on WikiLeaks attacked the broadcaster's website Sunday night, posting hundreds of stolen passwords as well as fake news stories.

Among the phony news items placed on PBS.org was a story about deceased rappers Tupak Shakur and Biggie Smalls being alive and well in New Zealand. The attacks continued through Monday afternoon as the network struggled to regain control of its site.

PBS said Monday that it was working to close the remaining security holes. A spokesperson said the compromised passwords were from its internal communications sites and that no personal information about the site's readers had been taken.

A group calling itself LulzSec — a combination of "security" and the Internet argot for laughs had at another's expense — claimed responsibility in an online message.

"Greetings, Internets. We just finished watching WikiSecrets and were less than impressed," the attackers wrote. "We decided to sail our Lulz Boat over to the PBS servers for further ... perusing."

First aired May 24, the one-hour "Frontline" documentary focused on Bradley Manning, a former low-level U.S. Army intelligence analyst who has been charged with unlawfully transmitting tens of thousands of sensitive diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks.

The group and its founder, Julian Assange, publicly criticized the documentary even before it aired, saying that "the program is hostile and misrepresents WikiLeaks' views" and that it tries to "build an 'espionage' case" against Assange and Manning.

WikiLeaks advocates leaking sensitive information as a means of exposing secretive government and corporate processes. But the group has come under fire by the Justice Department, which announced last year that it was conducting a criminal investigation into whether WikiLeaks violated laws about the disclosure of confidential national security information.

Manning is being held in solitary confinement, apparently under severe conditions. According to his attorney, he is denied sheets, forbidden to exercise in his cell and not allowed to sleep between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The show presents a friend of Manning calling him "very depressed" and later notes that "the case presents an important cautionary note to the theory that lower-level analysts like Manning should have access to such a wide range of intelligence."

The PBS attackers posted a prominent message on the site that read "Free Bradley Manning!"

The incident is the latest in a series of vigilante-type missions from Internet denizens who support WikiLeaks and some of the key players in the story of the leaking site. In December, WikiLeaks partisans shut down the Visa and MasterCard websites after the companies froze WikiLeaks-related accounts.

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