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Newsbytes hack seeks to embarrass EL Reg

Nice try, little man

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The Washington Post's tech-news repeater Newsbytes has implied that we were talking bollocks when we revealed several credit card hacks in a recent story entitled "Hacking IIS- how sweet it is."

In that piece we claimed - on the basis of something called evidence - that StrawberryNet.com; mWave.com; and Stic.net had been hacked by means of the IIS folder traversal vulnerability.

In hopes of catching us with our trousers down, Newsbytes copy drone Brian McWilliams hastily ran up a little would-be exposé challenging our accuracy on the strength of his conversations with the victim companies, all of whom predictably denied being hacked.

Of course we've seen the victims of CC hacks deny it endlessly in the face of withering evidence, as Egghead did, and as Amazon did. We consider it an occupational hazard.

In this case Newsbytes dutifully rang the managers of the victimized companies and allowed them to claim that they have no knowledge of a hack. This, of course, is less than conducive to solid newsgathering; there's often a sort of 'selective ignorance' at play in such circumstances, we've found.

And get this: Newsbytes performed a "scan" of some sort which indicated, to McWilliams' satisfaction, that none of the sites in question was vulnerable.

"A scan performed by Newsbytes today revealed that none of the three firms are (sic) currently vulnerable to the exploit which enabled variants of the Code Red Worm to infect thousands of Web sites," McWilliams writes.

Perhaps McWilliams doesn't understand that Code Red exploits the .ida buffer overflow vulnerability, not the IIS folder traversal vulnerability, which we claimed had been used against the sites in question. A minor detail, perhaps, depending on the power of that "scan" he claims to have performed.

We, on the other hand, ran the standard folder traversal exploit on all the sites, and found, at press time, that two had since patched against it, while one remained wide open, though it did manage to get itself patched within four hours of our story's appearance.

We didn't mention it at the time because we knew the system was open and didn't want that tiny minority of our beloved readers whom we don't fully trust to screw them. But since it's now fixed, we'll tell you that it was mWave, and that we had a nice look at the contents of their C drive, and managed to call cmd.exe to boot.

As for Strawberrynet, we reckon they'd prefer that we don't ring their customers, whose names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers and expiration dates we've seen, to confirm that they've made purchases there. But if Brian McWilliams insists, we'll just have to, we suppose, in spite of the alarm it might cause them. Of course that would be a terrible embarrassment for the company, so prudence demands that we only go as far as McWilliams pushes us.

And as for Stic.net, we've seen their customer accounts, and we know how much their staff earn. We'd hate like hell to have to publish that data, so we hope for their sake that Brian McWilliams won't force our hand. Of course we'll do whatever we must to demonstrate our veracity.

"For them (The Reg?) to blaspheme us and put our customers at risk like that, well, this old boy and I can go out behind the barn real easy," said David Robertson, president of Stic.net," to Newsbytes' McWilliams.

Yeah, we spoke with Robertson too, and he was falling all over himself denying the hack, ringing us every hour on the hour for a time. We've since learned that he's owned the hack, and even apologized to CardCops, the organization which first brought his troubles to our attention.

He's become immensely harder for us to contact since then. For a guy who seemed to have our phone number memorized, he's gone suspiciously quiet of late. He's since neglected to answer our e-mail and our phone calls.

But he'll talk to twinkie journos who have absolutely no evidence with which to refute him - or us, for that matter. ®

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