Singletrackworld.com, the website that pre-dated Singletrack magazine, is currently offline following a malicious attack by a 17 year old hacker in a coding attack he has admitted to Mark Alker, publisher of Singletrack, was "random".
The attack was said to have been conducted for bragging rights on Evilzone.org, a hackers website that was later attacked itself by coders unconnected to, but sympathetic towards, Singletrackworld.com.
31 000 email addresses were sent spam messages from the hacker, including wishes for a Happy Christmas.
It’s been anything but for the owners and staff at Singletrack.
Mark Alker, in aggrieved, staccato mode, told BikeBiz:
"Site deleted…31k email addresses stolen…Servers go down… Hosting company goes bust… Pissed off mountain bikers fight back against the hackers… Hackers website goes down… German hosting company of said site takes them off the air.. . Contact made with FBI since Singletrack servers hosted in the US makes it a US federal crime… UK police don’t think it’s a crime at all and so have to be pointed at the Misuse of Computers Act 1990… Singletrack losses estaimated at several thousand a week… Readers begin donation campaign to help keep us going and fight the hackers… Hacker tracked down to a 17 year old living in Norwich…Name and address passed to police.. Police do nothing.. Hackers website memberss begin a denial of service attack on Christmas Day.. Site goes down again for 7 hours.. Back up Boxing Day with two tech guys fighting off wave after wave of attempted site hacks… New servers rented from a UK host.. Today work begins on rebuilding Singletrackworld entirely from scratch…Legal issues continue and solicitors contacted with a view to seeking damages from hacker."
In an email to the registered members of the Singletrack forum, the hacker wrote:
"happy christmas! singletrack.com [sic] got owned by farse! greetz – evilzone.org members ;D"
The hacker is said to have found, at random, a security backdoor to the Singletrackworld.com website database but instead of informing the site owner, he decided to run amok, trying to make a name for himself on Evilzone.org, a website with PayPal attacks and other hacking tips.
Despite being unavailable online, Singletrackworld has received offers of support via forums on other websites and the Singletrack blog, also now down. A rescue fund was set-up.
Alker said: "Thanks for the amazing amount of support. We’ve had everything from phone calls, emails to texts from people wishing us all the best and a speedy return.
"We would like to especially thank everyone who has made a donation to the fund – it is very much appreciated and is helping us keep going.
"I know we are are now a large commercial website with a very popular printed magazine but that success doesn’t automatically translate into cash at the bank.
"We rely on our Christmas trade every year. It’s very important and has a real impact on the lives of everyone who works here. That’s why this disaster has come at exactly the wrong time. But thanks to your support we stand a very good chance of getting through and into the New Year."
The financial support has included offers of cash from members of the bike trade.
Duncan Moore, former co-owner of Sorted Cycles, said he was contributing to the fund because "We wouldn’t have had half the success without Singletrack."
Singletrack editor Chipps said:
"While our hacker friends have shown that the world isn’t just as simple as bike riding, scenery and a pie and a pint at the end of the day, everyone’s good wishes, donations and offers of help have really buoyed us at what has been a very frustrating time."
Frustrating and financial punitive. Alker pointed out to the hacker just what was at stake and just what his coding attacks had achieved:
"Small company of nine people are now going to be working through Christmas to try and rebuild what you just destroyed. That was a website that paid wages to nine people, from revenue earned from advertising and sales on that website. No site, no money.
"Let’s run through the consequences…
"First, let’s start with Claire… Claire is a single mother of three. She worked for this site posting out the orders that came in via the online shop. She gets paid hourly. This is one of two jobs she holds down and altogether she just about manages to pay the rent. She’s had gas and electric meters installed recently and for every £20 she puts in the those meters £14 is used by the gas and electric company to pay off her bill. The rest actually activates the meter and she can heat her house and cook food. She took home about £84 a week from her job on that site.
"Sarah handles the subscriptions and accounts. She’s just moved house. Her salary was to a large extent dependent on the subscription sales generated by that site. She has a 3 year old daughter.
"Ben is our staff writer and online editor. The stories that were all in that database he wrote.
"Sim is our designer. The artwork and images displayed on that site were down to him.
"Matt is our ad sales guy. He’s paid a commission on the money generated by the ads on that site.
"Tom is our web designer. He was responsible for the new trail guide section we just launched. That was a new section designed to earn extra revenue since we are in a recession right now we were relying on that section to fire up a new revenue stream to help us out over the next month.
"Tom is our server and database guy. He’s the one currently going through the server to try and undo the mess you have caused.
"Chipps is our mag editor. He wrote a lot of the stories that have been lost now.
"Then there’s me. I’m the one now wondering how we are going to earn enough money this week now the site has been destroyed to pay all the wages of the people above. Maybe you could help me pick the ones to lay off over Christmas?
"Then there’s our readers who you have just spammed. Readers who will trust us less and be very hard to encourage back once we have sorted this mess out."