Hackers Deface CERN's 'Big Bang' Particle Accelerator Site

As scientists began testing CERN's Large Hadron Collider last week, hackers made a mockery of the European lab's network security.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

September 15, 2008

1 Min Read

Just as scientists began testing CERN's Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland last week, hackers made a mockery of the European lab's network security.

The collider is a massive underground particle accelerator designed to conduct particle physics experiments. It lies beneath the border between France and Switzerland.

On Wednesday, just as the collider was about to be tested for the first time, a group calling itself the "Greek Security Team" hacked into a computer connected to the collider and defaced a CERN Web page with a message in Greek.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the hackers derided CERN's IT security staff as "a bunch of schoolkids." They professed to have no plan to disrupt collider experiments; they said they wanted to highlight the lab's security problems.

"We're pulling your pants down because we don't want to see you running around naked looking to hide yourselves when the panic comes," the hackers wrote, according to the Daily Telegraph's translation of the Greek defacement.

CERN didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

A CERN spokesman told the BBC that no damage was done, but that the incident revealed the need for stronger security.

Though the hacked page has since been removed, the Daily Telegraph has preserved a screenshot.

An unnamed CERN scientist told the Daily Telegraph that the hackers were "one step away" from a computer than controlled one of the 12,500-ton magnets in the collider. Had they managed to get into that machine, they could have turned parts of the collider off.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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