Hackers put flashing images on epilepsy forum

Posted on Monday, Mar 31 2008 @ 23:47 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
DailyTech reports about one of the first known assaults of hackers that caused physical harm on victims. A forum run by the Epilepsy Foundation was the victim of a ruthless attack, the hackers ran a script that generated hundreds of messages with flashing GIF files:
Ken Lowenberg, senior director of web and print publishing at the Epilepsy Foundation states, "We are seeing people affected. It's fortunately only a handful. It's possible that people are just not reporting yet -- people affected by it may not be coming back to the forum so fast."

Hackers launched the attack Saturday, March 22. They used a script to generate hundreds of messages with flashing animated GIF files attached. On Sunday the griefers upped their assault injecting JavaScript into many posts. The script would redirect the users’ page to a complex image crafted to induce seizures. The malefic page was specially designed to trigger seizures in both photosensitive and pattern-sensitive epileptics, two major classes of epilepsy.

One pattern sensitive epileptic, RyAnne Fultz, a 33-year old mother who regularly uses the group, was a victim of Sunday's attack. After initially clicking an innocent sounding post, her screen was filled with a large pattern of blinking squares. She says she "locked up". Fultz who works IT Coeur d'Alene, Idaho explained, "I don't fall over and convulse, but it hurts. I was on the phone when it happened, and I couldn't move and couldn't speak."

Fortunately, Fultz was rescued by her 11-year-old son who came into the room and forced her gaze away from the screen and killed the process. Fultz emphasized how bad a seizure the attack caused, stating, "It was a spike of pain in my head. And the lockup, that only happens with really bad ones. I don't think I've had a seizure like that in about a year."

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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