The NeoSmart Files

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 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.