New Item to Add to Crisis Plan: Hacker Attack Response

Your Web site is not secure, but you know that already—or you should know. The recent hacking of PBS' Web sites only serves to underline the need for all crisis plans to incorporate measures to take when a site is taken over by hostile pranksters.

Earlier this week a fake story about rapper Tupac Shakur was posted on the PBS NewsHour site by hackers who, according to Web site Boing Boing, also published thousands of passwords on the PBS server. The hackers claimed to be acting in reaction to the Frontline documentary WikiSecrets, which takes a critical look at WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

In a statement, Frontline executive producer David Fanning said that he views the hackers' attack as a "disappointing and irresponsible act" that is an attempt to "chill independent journalism."

Whether or not the hackers of PBS' site intended to silence journalistic discourse, the message for all communicators is loud and clear: All Web sites are vulnerable to quick strikes by hackers who can seriously mess with an organization's reputation. According the New York Times, PBS struggled for two days to regain total control over the Frontline and PBS NewsHour pages, so the lesson here is twofold: make sure IT is trained in dealing with an attack by hackers, and have alternate means to distribute information and official messages while an attack is under way. In PBS' case, YouTube and Tumblr were used to post content and transcripts during the attack. 

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