Hacker Puts X-Rated Tale on Library Dial-a-Story Line

Hacker Puts X-Rated Tale on Library Dial-a-Story Line

A mother and daughter in Contra Costa County, California, received a rude surprise when they called Benicia Public Library’s dial-a-story telephone service May 22. Geri Engberg said that instead of the innocuous tale she and her 6-year-old were expecting, they heard a profanity-laden account of an X-rated relationship between a dog and a pig, the San Jose Mercury News reported May 23.

Library Director Diane Smikahl said that as soon as the library heard from Engberg, staff took the story down and contacted the police. She told American Libraries the system requires entering a four-digit password to change the message, adding, “My guess is that somebody guessed it, or they’re professional hackers.”

Smikahl said the police and library’s IT staff are working closely together to find the culprit, although they do not yet have any leads. The police plan is to charge the crime as a felony offense of altering data on a computer system.

Asked how libraries can avoid becoming the victim of a similar hack, Smikahl advises colleagues “to make sure they have secure passwords” and to “make sure they change it often.”

Posted on May 30, 2008. Discuss.