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Hack pretends he's actually written a book

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Amazon.co.uk carries out no security checks on messages posted on its site by the authors of books it sells. So users are getting upto mischief and posing as writers of books they have nothing to do with.

To test the situation The Reg set up a hotmail address using the name of an established author - we clicked on the link saying 'I am the author and I want to comment on my book' - and up came our message a day later.

However in a fit of pique Amazon pulled the posting once we pointed out to them what we'd done. It wasn't even rude or abusive, we'd just used the words the actual author wanted to see online. Reg friend Matt Thorne let us post a message as the author of his book Dreaming of Strangers.

We just set up a hotmail account Thorne_Matt@hotmail.com and pretended to be Matt. We posted the message on Friday 4 August, and it appeared on Saturday. There was actually no point in setting up the email address because Amazon didn't email back to check it until after The Reg pointed out what it had done. We got a blank email from Adrian Spence, operations manager of Amazon.co.uk's catalogue department.

Last week Amazon's PR manager Lisa Ramshaw said the company had not suffered from any of these author spoofs because it runs security checks. These checks are so effective that Lisa couldn't say what they were because then we'd know how to get round them.

Our author friend Matt Thorne is quite relaxed about the chance of fake authors pretending to be him and writing about his books. "I'm not at all worried about these bogus authors - they're saving me the trouble of doing it." ®

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