If you were one of the 4000 or so journalists who received the following message this week, please don’t hate us. We were hacked:
The spam didn’t care if you worked for ProPublica or The New Yorker, KYW-TV or North Country Public Radio, you and your inbox were going to feel the pain. Some of you, unfortunately, clicked on or replied to these emails, which then bounced around and around like an ear-shattering loop of microphone feedback. Eventually, the message got out that the mysterious LinkedIn request was a wolf in dressed up as Grandma and that replying only perpetuated the problem.
So, what happened here? As soon as we realized we were under attack, we called Clint, the IT guy at the Merrill College, then reached out to Ira, the zen master at the University’s IT division. Ira erased all JCCF reflectors and closed down that long-retired email address. But he warned us it would take time to stop the flood waters from spilling over the levy.
JCCF took to Twitter, Facebook and our homepage to explain the situation and apologize for ruining your day (and ours).
The experience was a depleting time-and-energy-suck. But it didn’t suck 100% thanks to those of you who responded with the kind of humor that arises between clever people caught in a shared nightmare, like an audience held captive at an insipid, endless performance art piece.
Soon, recipients began to realize this incident put them in the company of many prominent and accomplished journalists. “Is it weird that I'm impressed by the caliber of people stuck on this merry-go-round?” wrote one. “Nice to meet you all on email,” wrote another.
Not everyone took the experience in stride, understably. Few people find emails jamming a server to be amusing. One perturbed journo screamed, “IT’S VITALLY IMPORTANT THAT I BE TAKEN OFF THIS LIST IMMEDIATELY AND ALL OTHER LISTS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD” Those weren’t his words exactly, but his vehemence produced a swift-kick of a response, “They are unwanted emails, not fire ants or SCUD missiles. Get a grip. Save ‘vitally important’ for something that actually matters.” Ouch.
One enterprising reporter seized the moment to mention that she was looking for work. The nerve! Her boldness received more admiration than admonition.
By sunrise the next morning, a calm descended with a new day, and I began sending personal apologies to those of you who seemed most beleaguered by the invasive species. Some of those emails bounced back, the gates to entry shut down to us like doors in an episode of “Get Smart.” Many of you sent very sweet notes.
From Cathy Frye of Arkansas Online, “I actually enjoyed myself. Best spam group ever!”
BJ Roche of the Journalism Program at U. Mass Amherst wrote, “Ha, not to worry--I actually got caught up with an old friend from high school who found me through this thing!”
Howard Price wrote, “This does raise some excellent business continuity and crisis mgmt issues, however…which is what I do here at ABC News. So I would suggest that if you've not already done so, engage your IT security team to suss out exploitable breaches in your systems and patch them.” We did.
Then he added, “Here at Disney, we wish everyone a magical day…and I wish that for you!” Indeed.
Hopefully nobody (but the hacker whoever he or she is) lost their job over this. We certainly don’t need anymore unemployed journalists. But did any journos actually get a job? I was curious, as were some of you.
“Thanks for the update on the crazy cyber attack and your kind note. I actually did get some positive replies to my query. I was perhaps opportunistic, but hey--a good journalist has to be fearless! lol. “ Look out world: Donna Owens is ready to roll up her sleeves and make the best of a bad day. I’m impressed.
Now, back to work!