In 2010, the popular celebrity gossip site, Gawker.com, was subject to an embarrassing data breach that compromised the information of about 1.5 million users—including the founder of the site, Nick Denton. While this data breach is actually on the low side as far as compromised users, it did create a big controversy with the reaction of the site as well as the motivation of the attackers. Read on to get the details of this hack and the missteps that followed with Gawker Media.
The attack was initially suspected when Gawker Media’s gadget site Gizmodo had a compromised Twitter feed with updates indicating that 1.5 million usernames, passwords, and email addresses had been taken. Initially, Gawker denied that the attack had taken place, but that passwords were encrypted anyway. However, an anonymous source came out and claimed responsibility for the attack, threatening to release the private user data. As a result, the site warned users to change their passwords, and database dump of the private data took place the next day. The source code of Gawker.com was also made available.
Why was Gawker targeted?
Eventually it was discovered that a group called Gnosis was responsible for the data breach. The group had targeted Gawker because of their “outright arrogance” in a previous feud with 4Chan. In order to collect the data released following the attack, hackers gained root access to Gawker’s Linux-based servers, allowing them further access to the source code, databases, and real-time chat logs from Campfire.
What was the outcome?
Gawker has a big negative backlash following the attack, not just due to the loss of user data. Along with the motivation for the attack, which quickly became public knowledge, there were controversial conversations seen on a Campfire chat among Gawker staff pertaining to the hack. Part of the conversation referred to Gawker users as “peasants”, which did not sit well with the sites followers.