Defaced!

07.11.11

David Beckham Hacked: Soccer Star’s Website Defaced by Unknown Hacker

What do David Beckham, the CIA, and the city of Orlando have in common? They’ve all been hit by hackers. Mike Giglio and Brian Ries report.

Add soccer star David Beckham to the list of victims in the recent spate of hacking attacks.

Sometime late Sunday afternoon the soccer star joined the likes of the CIA, PBS, the city of Orlando, and countless other corporate, government, and private organizations that have seen their websites hacked and defaced in recent months.

Visitors heading to DavidBeckham.com for the latest on the soccer star’s various photo shoots and media appearances, or his blog entries about life with the L.A. Galaxy, were instead welcomed by a mysterious photograph left there by a nefarious Internet vandal.

In short, Beckham got hacked.

The perpetrator saw fit to post a photograph of a hapless dog trying to eat a bowl of food painted on a street sign. “Listen to your nose,” the sign implores the dog. The words “Fail” and “ScooterDAshooter = FAIL” are superimposed over the picture, suggesting the dog—and Beckham, by proxy—was doing something wrong.

Perhaps it was a break in the website’s code that allowed the hacker to slip in. Perhaps Beckham simply had an easy password to guess. Or perhaps, as is common with a majority of the “hacktivists” who call themselves Anonymous, this particular hacker used free software that did the deed on his or her behalf. Penetration testing is the name security specialists would use. And Beckham’s site obviously failed this particular test.

But these specialists and hackers alike, it should be noted, would scoff at calling such an exploit “hacking.” The feat of slipping into a website’s administrator environment is a far smaller job than, say, actually hacking into the CIA’s secret databases. Acts like these might be better compared to a kind of digital graffiti, where the culprits may spray-paint their names on the web equivalent of a highway overpass for all bystanders to see.

And why not Beckham? His site is prime real estate for a bored computer vandal. It doesn’t get the web traffic of, say, espn.com, but still an estimated 10,000 visitors stop by on any given month (according to audience measurement tool Quantcast).

The defacement, as it’s called, will likely be easier news for Beckham to digest than the last time somebody had to tell him he had been hacked.

Beckham’s site is prime real estate for a bored computer vandal.

Back during a six-month period in 2005–06, two of Beckham’s BMW X5s were stolen by a band of luxury-car thieves who employed laptops and digital transmitters to hack into the car’s Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) keyless entry system. This enabled them to silently open each car’s armor-plated doors, start the engines, and drive away. But where those Beckham hacks are like scenes out of the action-packed film Gone in 60 Seconds, the more recent defacement of DavidBeckham.com is more The Hangover.

This time, anyway, the soccer star was seemingly too busy celebrating the birth of his and Victoria Beckham’s daughter to notice—Harper Seven, the couple’s fourth child, was born Sunday afternoon. And by Sunday night at midnight (EST) the “listen to your nose” dog was still live on the site.