Preying on the Handicapped and Giving Geeks a Bad Name

When you’ve practically lived online day-in, day-out for the past decade or so you tend to develop a thick skin to the malevolent things that tend to happen every once in a while. But there are some things that you’d never expect, not once in a million years; they strike a nerve and they really do hurt.

This morning I came across such an event that penetrated that virtual suite of armor when I read this Wired.com article about a recent script-kiddy attack on a web forum run by The Epilepsy Foundation – the news is so bad it makes one’s blood boil. A group of crackers launched a bone-chillingly cold-blooded and thoughtless attack on the members of the epilepsy forum. They weren’t looking for money, private info, fame, or acknowledgement — they were merely searching for a way to cause as much physical and mental harm as possible.


Epilepsy, as defined by Wikipedia:

Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder that is characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms due to abnormal, excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain. About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy at any one time.

This particular attack focused on hacking the forum to display images that triggered epileptic attacks in visitors; invoked by a series of images flashing at pre-determined intervals showing certain shapes and patterns that are known to cause seizures to people suffering from epilepsy.

Everyone has seen the photosensitive seizure warning on video games at one point in time or the other – they’re there for a reason. Epileptic attacks are not a joke, and purposely invoking such an attack on innocent website visitors as some sick person or persons’ sick idea of a joke must not be tolerated.

What’s even worse is that the first round of attack was not enough for the perpetrators. Instead, a second attack followed which used javascript exploits to redirect visitors to more-complex images and animations; affecting even more people.

The compromised forum posts and code were available for approximately 12 hours:

But she’s satisfied with the Epilepsy Foundation’s relatively fast response to the attack, about 12 hours after it began on Easter weekend. "We all really appreciate them for giving us this forum and giving us this place to find each other," she says.

While that may not seem like too long of a time, if you consider the fact that these are human beings being attacked and not machines or web-browsers then 12 hours turns into a lifetime – after all, for some people this really is a matter of life or death.

At the moment evidence suggests that "Anonymous," a group of crackers recently come to fame for their web-cracking endeavors; the true identity of the perpetrator(s) remains unknown. But whoever it is, this kind of ridiculous, immature, and down-right evil attacks most not be tolerated by the tech community at large.

11 thoughts on “Preying on the Handicapped and Giving Geeks a Bad Name

  1. Wow!

    thats is something that hits hard. I know that attacks like this are few and far apart but to think that they attacked these people (some who can even die from an Epileptic Attack).

    I am glad that it was resolved in such a quick time, I’m sure there was a lot of tampering to the site.

    Post Script: Remember that Anon is not entirely crackers, we even have Anon here on this site. For the most part Anon is just random users on a Channel image board. Those that happen to partake in crimes against man, don’t even have to be Anon, they could be anyone that wishes to stay Anonymous.

  2. This is a disgusting thing to do, they might as well force a person with pulmonary hypertension to run laps. Who ever is responsible for this dispicable act of coward torture should really understand the implication of such an act. I hope that no one got hurt but it could have really caused the death of someone (God Forbid). Then the persons responsible would be liable for manslaughter, just think about that again, I like many others find hackers comical at the best of time for example the Pakis closing you tube or the geeks renaming the microsoft web site, but this is just aweful, how could they sleep with themselves, they make me sick. God knows what youve done

  3. Actually to me 12 hours seems more like they don’t have enough moderators or other volunteers and/or staff members in place to watch over things. I moderate a large number of forums. It’s just a matter of keeping some extra tabs open and watching the traffic.

  4. You can’t expect a single moderator to be in place 24/7.

    You can find a small group of them located in different parts of the globe or who are online at different times during the day to keep watch on things.

    It can be done. Many sites do it. (I’d give links but you’re using wordpress and probably Akismet and that’ll get me caught by the filters) Really sounds like a staffing issue.

  5. Defensio, actually :)

    We have our own forums actually with a couple of moderators, but you’re missing the point of the post here.. It’s not about the technical factors involved in preventing such an attack, its about the moral degradation required for someone to do such a thing in the first place.

  6. No, I understand your point but you may be missing mine. I do webhosting and have a very large and active forum there. We do have folks in place to deal with an issue if this was to occur.

    It just concerns me that the issue wasn’t resolved for 12 hours. In “the world of the internet” for lack of a better term, that’s a very long time where a lot of folks could have been harmed.

  7. Perhaps there was moderation but no admins around?

    I don’t know how their servers are configured, but on ours moderators can delete posts but not ban users – so it’s possible the posts were being deleted but that they kept cropping back up. IIRC, the attackers used bots to fill the entire board up with posts – that’s not something easy to keep on top of.

  8. i think this is hilarious.

    4chan destroys your morals, and this is the result.

    i hope a follow-up “attack” comes soon to the site, just for the lulz.

  9. Wow. 12 hours is a very long time for something like that to go on. Even on a holiday they should have some mods checking every few hours.

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