Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” Poll, Hacked by 4chan
Once the folks at 4chan discovered this, they did a little digging around and found out Time wasn’t really using all that much authentication/validation around their voting mechanism. With an easily manipulated URL string, they were able to create “autovoters” – mechanisms by which large amounts of votes could be cast, pushing candidates up or down.
Soon afterward, it was discovered that the Time.com Poll didn’t even range check its parameters to ensure that the ratings fell within the 1 to 100 range. The autovoters were adapted to take advantage of this loophole, which resulted in the Time.com poll showing moot with a 300% rating, while all other candidates had ratings far below zero.
Of interest is this Time-created video, discussing Moot.
I guess I could chalk it up to Time leaving its doors open intentionally, and figuring on just getting a lot of traffic/publicity as a result. But it’s easier for me to think that they’re just not quite on top of things, and left the door unlocked due to either negligence or ignorance. Hard to believe that, but it seems more plausible.
Several years ago, Chris, Matt, Kashif and I all found out that Animal Planet’s had a thing called the Puppy Bowl. The contest was aired at around the same time as the Super Bowl where people vote on a variety of cute puppies, trying to determine which was the cutest.
In their poll, there was also a lack of validation. And the four of us each took our own approaches (and puppies), and found different ways to quickly add in a massive amount of votes per puppy. It was funny while it lasted, and a few days later the votes were all “cleared,” with more security added.
This Time poll hack is WAY more involved than our simplistic approach, so many years ago. And since it’s Time, it’s a much bigger venue. I’ll be curious to see if this is a legit story or not, and what the eventual result turns out to be. Surely Time must be aware that it’s being gamed, right? Or are they shackled with the same vision problems that seems to plague so many of their counterparts, in the realm of Print?