The online encyclopedia Wikipedia has been the victim of an extremely tasteless hacker attack. atechbook explains the background.
The reasons for hacker attacks are many. In the best case, computer professionals try to discover security vulnerabilities and report them to system administrators. Such so-called white-hat hackers often act on behalf of the respective company. On the other hand, there are also plenty of malicious hackers. They are mostly after money, data, influence, trolling or simply the hack itself. In the case of the swastikas on Wikipedia, it is a malicious attack that is either meant to convey a political message or to be a macabre joke.
Wikipedia full of swastikas
The attacker or attackers hacked a specific Wikipedia template that over 50,000 pages use. Templates are templates that authors of Wikipedia pages use to make it easier to add articles. The result of the hack: the entire background turns red and black swastikas in white circles can be seen on it – the flag of the Nazis. Among the affected pages, were also those of stars such as Ben Affleck or Jennifer Lopez.
As a spokeswoman for Wikipedia told atechbook when asked, it was relatively easy to get hold of the template: “The template was freely editable by everyone. Just like any other wiki page. Normally, such central templates are protected from edits by administrators. In this case, that wasn’t the case and has since been made up for.”
Due to the template attack, it can’t be assumed that it was meant to hit specific pages. Rather, the attack seems as if they wanted to disfigure as many pages as possible. Accordingly, it was noticed by users very quickly. Among them was the right-wing conservative US author Ann Coulter, who posted on Twitter:
Wow – go to Wikipedia now! Looks like it’s been hacked. pic.twitter.com/wVKCriERjD
– Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) August 16, 2021
What is Wikipedia doing about the hack?
As quickly as the hack was discovered, Wikipedia adjusted the affected templates and also removed the unwanted swastika symbols from the pages.
Wikipedia commented to atechbook: “The template has been corrected, so the uses of the swastikas should also have disappeared from the articles again. It may theoretically be that cached versions are displayed, so the vandalism is unfortunately still visible, although the damage has long been repaired.”
Wiki could also determine the account of the originator permanently banned from the platform. “The user account is known, the corresponding IP address can be viewed by community members with appropriate rights (checkuser). Likewise, the Wikimedia Foundation has access to this information.”
Wikipedia is home to a whole army of volunteer moderators who keep an eye out for any conspicuous features in the future. “Here, swarm intelligence and a sense of responsibility counterbalance vandalism and disinformation,” says Christian Humborg, Executive Director of Wikimedia Deutschland e.V.
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- Request to Wikimedia Deutschland e.V.