"Hacker" Claims Responsibility For Taco Bell Vita Fiasco

"Hacker" Claims Responsibility For Taco Bell Vita Fiasco

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A self-proclaimed hacker has taken credit for being the guy who tampered with Taco Bell's PS Vita contest, triggering a pile of incorrect winner notifications.

You'd be forgiven for viewing Taco Bell's claims that the false winning notifications in its "Unlock the Box" contest were the result of someone "attempting to gain illegal entry and defraud the system" with a little bit of doubt. That's just the sort of thing a big, uncaring corporate machine would say, after all, to dodge its responsibility for screwing up and jerking around consumers. But in this case, it's apparently true: A hacker going by the name "Sinister" claimed on the ExploitN forum that he's the man who made the mess.

Sinister posted a picture of the Vita sent to him by Ventura Associates, which ran the contest in conjunction with Taco Bell, as well as the letter confirming his win. "Got with the same bot I used for the Vita sign up page," he wrote. The message has since been edited to remove mention of the bot but Kotaku has a screen cap of the original post and there are plenty of follow-up messages congratulating him on his "win" and either thanking him for enabling others to claim one as well or expressing disappointment than their own attempts to hack the system were caught out.

Taco Bell was also sent a copy of Sinister's original post, and it doesn't sound like the company is in the mood to forgive and forget. "We have zero tolerance for individuals who attempt to attack or illegally enter the Unlock the Box promotion," it said in a statement. "Any attempt to deliberately undermine the legitimate operation of this promotion is not only prohibited by the rules, but also may violate criminal and civil laws. We will fully investigate these allegations and will explore all legal remedies."

It's won't be of much solace to those who mistakenly thought they were winners, but the part of me that doesn't want to be cynical finds it oddly comforting that this whole mess was in fact caused by a jerk with a bot. It's still unfortunate, but I'd far rather have to deal with one guy determined to exploit the system than a system that's determined to exploit everybody.

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Hacking and using a bot are not, and never will be the same thing. Please look up an appropriate term instead of using a grossly inappropriate one.You might as well replace the word Hacker with rapist because it would be literally just as accurate.

See, I never understood that. Why stick your head above the parapet and shout "I did it!"? Way to draw attention and a curb stomp on your arse.

I don't know who is the lower form of scum.
The piece of shit who "hacked" the competition, or the ignorant dickheads congratulating him on a job well done.

Some people seem too eager to take the side of the thieves, pirates*, hackers and various other cyber criminals these days. It sickens me.

*To clarify, I take issue with the people who crack and upload pirated software more so than those who download it. Whilst I think pirating games is wrong, its a temptation I can understand. Without those who make piracy possible, the temptation wouldn't be an issue.
I didn't want this to become a discussion on piracy, but felt this note was needed in case anyone took offence to my lumping "pirates" with thieves and cyber criminals.

Taco "Bill", Andy?

fletch_talon:
I don't know who is the lower form of scum.
The piece of shit who "hacked" the competition, or the ignorant dickheads congratulating him on a job well done.

Some people seem too eager to take the side of the thieves, pirates*, hackers and various other cyber criminals these days. It sickens me.

*To clarify, I take issue with the people who crack and upload pirated software more so than those who download it. Whilst I think pirating games is wrong, its a temptation I can understand. Without those who make piracy possible, the temptation wouldn't be an issue.
I didn't want this to become a discussion on piracy, but felt this note was needed in case anyone took offence to my lumping "pirates" with thieves and cyber criminals.

More and more, corporations have managed to promote an Us vs. Them mentality. Made worse every time a story circulates about how this company or that screwed over it's employees, customers, whatever.

While this is completely outside the range of acceptable behavior, I can see where that kind of an attitude could have some grounding in conditioning.

Then again, we're talking about a community where it's simply a "hey, free stuff :D" mentality, which is utterly disgusting.

viranimus:
Hacking and using a bot are not, and never will be the same thing. Please look up an appropriate term instead of using a grossly inappropriate one.You might as well replace the word Hacker with rapist because it would be literally just as accurate.

Uh. Isn't this just a report? I don't think our article maker friend really knows enough about that field to actually know what he's talking about. So there's no reason to get rather picky at specifics. Not like any layman would know the difference.

Swifteye:

viranimus:
Hacking and using a bot are not, and never will be the same thing. Please look up an appropriate term instead of using a grossly inappropriate one.You might as well replace the word Hacker with rapist because it would be literally just as accurate.

Uh. Isn't this just a report? I don't think our article maker friend really knows enough about that field to actually know what he's talking about. So there's no reason to get rather picky at specifics. Not like any layman would know the difference.

The specifics are imperative. We have too many people as it stands who think essentially anything bad that happens which involves a computer is the work of "hackers" and that is directly caused by people who are reporting news to others misusing the word to mean things that it doesn't. By being irresponsible with the language one uses it either purposely or inadvertently colors the story being written.

If it were an isolated incident I would not even bother mentioning it, but its a downright common misconception that is too often repeated on this forum and has already bore negative effects. So is it not irresponsible to fill the layman who doesnt know any difference with the wrong word so they are pushed to being against the wrong thing entirely.

Isn't that the whole basis of the phrase "the pen is mightier than the sword"? That words can have a staggering and even debilitating effect resulting in more damage than what one can do with a device that has no other purpose than destruction.

viranimus:

Swifteye:

viranimus:
Hacking and using a bot are not, and never will be the same thing. Please look up an appropriate term instead of using a grossly inappropriate one.You might as well replace the word Hacker with rapist because it would be literally just as accurate.

Uh. Isn't this just a report? I don't think our article maker friend really knows enough about that field to actually know what he's talking about. So there's no reason to get rather picky at specifics. Not like any layman would know the difference.

The specifics are imperative. We have too many people as it stands who think essentially anything bad that happens which involves a computer is the work of "hackers" and that is directly caused by people who are reporting news to others misusing the word to mean things that it doesn't. By being irresponsible with the language one uses it either purposely or inadvertently colors the story being written.

If it were an isolated incident I would not even bother mentioning it, but its a downright common misconception that is too often repeated on this forum and has already bore negative effects. So is it not irresponsible to fill the layman who doesnt know any difference with the wrong word so they are pushed to being against the wrong thing entirely.

Isn't that the whole basis of the phrase "the pen is mightier than the sword"? That words can have a staggering and even debilitating effect resulting in more damage than what one can do with a device that has no other purpose than destruction.

I'm very sorry but my perspective lends me to believe you really can't get people to tell the difference between an apple and orange without them first caring. It's like when a person of ethnicity expects everyone to know the very exact background they hail from at first glance. It's not really something anyone can do without knowing something about the subject.
Such is the case. I don't really know anything about a bot. What a bot does. How a bot is programmed. Who controls a bot and what a bot is capable of. And I don't really know how a hacker hacks. What tools he uses. the hardware that supports it and the software that's installed.
And I don't need to. This article is about how a person infiltrated a website to get himself a free pspvita. Giving detailed computer sub culture jargon isn't the business of a brief article on a website about video games. They'd have to hire specialist to write the columns if they truly desired to be so thorough.

Anonymous hacker claims are meaningless, Taco Bell should be forced to honor all of these winners and such.

It's like this, if a company messes up or decides it doesn't want to award a prize, or decided their contest was too generous, or whatever else, it's easy to simply say "Some Hacker Did it" perhaps reinforced by a few screenshots or messages allegedly from the guy that did it. It's too easy to fake for things like this.

IMO no matter how "enraged" they seem, if they are declaring the winner notifications false, as far as I am concerned they are in the wrong, unless they actually catch this hacker and convict him. Otherwise it's a simply matter for companies to run whatever promotion they want and then produce their own phantom hacker as an excuse for doing whatever the heck they want with the results or even just avoid giving away the full prizes once they have already used the contest for promotional value. If people accept it was an "evil hacker" as an excuse it gives companies carte blanche to basically promise whatever they want, and then back out.

Granted the excuse won't work if a company does it constnatly, but even as a once in a while thing it's a problem. In a case like this I think there should be a burden of proof on the company to produce the hacker.

Not what most people seem to be thinking here, but it's my thoughts. Especially seeing as Taco Bell is a big target even if it's "easy", if this Sinister guy is a "for the lulz" hacker who is going to post like that, I suspect we probably would have heard from him in a fairly mainstream sense before now. Maybe he does exist, maybe he's that good, but that should be established by a lot more than we see here before Taco Bell should be able to claim any winning doesn't count.

Out of interest, how many false winners were there? Cuause it seems like its done a lot more damage to Taco Bell trying to dispute these winnings than just saying there was an error, but that they intend to offer every winner anyway. That would have got them a tonne of free publicity and a lot of respect, at the cost of a few Vitas.

Swifteye:

viranimus:
Hacking and using a bot are not, and never will be the same thing. Please look up an appropriate term instead of using a grossly inappropriate one.You might as well replace the word Hacker with rapist because it would be literally just as accurate.

Uh. Isn't this just a report? I don't think our article maker friend really knows enough about that field to actually know what he's talking about. So there's no reason to get rather picky at specifics. Not like any layman would know the difference.

Except this kind of thing has real consequences. Take the evolution vs. intelligent design thing for example. One of the most common claims made by those supporting the teaching of intelligent design in schools is that evolution is "just a theory". Because of the irresponsibility of the press and tv and movie writers, the public's understanding of the word and its actual meaning are very different things. Most of the public thinks that a theory is pretty much just a guess or an idea, sometimes something that's just been made up on the spot. In truth, a theory is an idea that's been tested many times and found to not only be consistent with the available data, but to make predictions that turn out to be correct.

So saying that evolution is "just a theory" is actually a bad idea if you're trying to discredit it. But because the public has such a poor understanding of what it really is, thanks to writers not bothering to actually, you know, work for their wages, it is actually considered a good point against the validity of evolution, which is pretty shameful.

Swifteye:

I'm very sorry but my perspective lends me to believe you really can't get people to tell the difference between an apple and orange without them first caring. It's like when a person of ethnicity expects everyone to know the very exact background they hail from at first glance. It's not really something anyone can do without knowing something about the subject.
Such is the case. I don't really know anything about a bot. What a bot does. How a bot is programmed. Who controls a bot and what a bot is capable of. And I don't really know how a hacker hacks. What tools he uses. the hardware that supports it and the software that's installed.
And I don't need to. This article is about how a person infiltrated a website to get himself a free pspvita. Giving detailed computer sub culture jargon isn't the business of a brief article on a website about video games. They'd have to hire specialist to write the columns if they truly desired to be so thorough.

Ok, I get your point, the average person doesnt understand tech jargon. Problem here is, I am not expecting some random forum user to differentiate them.

Remember, it is the journalistic responsibility of the person writing a news article to use the proper terminology. It requires no specialist. Its the same requirement from the editor of a major magazine or a middle school news paper. If you are using words as your tool, you need to use the proper ones, or you run the risk of irresponsibly taking all those lay people who DON'T understand the difference and putting the wrong ideas in their head. Then what do they do? They talk to their friends and family about the story again using the wrong term, so those 3rd hands are grabbing the wrong term too, and then they start writing their congresspeople who in turn start drafting misinformed legislation just as bad as SOPA.

Would you tell a prospective mate you have HIV when you really mean to say you have erectile dysfunction? Why wouldnt you? What problem do you have with people getting the wrong ideas about you? They are totally the same right? Same as in both are sexually related issues. HIV is just an initialism everyone knows, so its easier just say 3 letters then having to type out two whole complex words. Surely everyone knows what you mean by that, right? Its just meaningless technical jargon of the medical professionals, right?

TL;DR

McMullen:
Basically what this guy said.

Anyway getting back on topic. Winning a Vita under any circumstance is sort of like admitting you won a romantic dinner date with Rosanne Barr. Its not a prize you want to keep, and if you make the mistake of doing so, all it is going to do is leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.

viranimus:
Hacking and using a bot are not, and never will be the same thing. Please look up an appropriate term instead of using a grossly inappropriate one.You might as well replace the word Hacker with rapist because it would be literally just as accurate.

What the heck do you think groups like Anon do? It's not 1000 guys with 1000 computers DDoS'ing a website, it's 10 guys with 100,000 bots.

It really seems like a convenient excuse that comes up whenever something goes wrong for these companies involving online. Just how Sony just 'happened' to find a note saying the Anonymous had been the ones to infiltrate them when the shit hit the fan. True or not it still seems mighty suspicious and really works as the perfect scapegoat for these companies.

"We didn't make a mistake, it was actually this person. We're gonna hunt them down for wronging you." Bam, instantly turning a shitty situation into one where they seem like the underdog that's gonna fight the person really behind the issue. Not that they mention that they had to have had security flaws in order to have such things occur in the first place. Of course no system is immune to hacking, cracking, or other methods of infiltration. But it all seems too convenient too me.

Buretsu:

viranimus:
Hacking and using a bot are not, and never will be the same thing. Please look up an appropriate term instead of using a grossly inappropriate one.You might as well replace the word Hacker with rapist because it would be literally just as accurate.

What the heck do you think groups like Anon do? It's not 1000 guys with 1000 computers DDoS'ing a website, it's 10 guys with 100,000 bots.

Yes I know and its NOT hacking. So thank you for illustrating WHY this is important.

"Sinister" isn't a proper hacker name anyway. It'd have to be "51N15T3r" for a start.

The_root_of_all_evil:
"Sinister" isn't a proper hacker name anyway. It'd have to be "51N15T3r" for a start.

good im glad i was the only person i was thinking this. so thank you.

It kind of remind me of that idiot who boasted himself for being the one who started the fire in that shop near the Ardale Centre during the Manchester riot. Seriously he stood there saying he's the one who did it and needless to say he was arrested an hour or so later.

I wonder how long it will take for the hacker to get arrested.

Foolproof:
Out of interest, how many false winners were there? Cuause it seems like its done a lot more damage to Taco Bell trying to dispute these winnings than just saying there was an error, but that they intend to offer every winner anyway. That would have got them a tonne of free publicity and a lot of respect, at the cost of a few Vitas.

Though in that case, the question that comes back is where's the money going to come from for those units? Remember, no matter what happens, Taco Bell isn't going to give Ventura Associates more money to fix this. Their mess, they clean it up, so to speak. Ventura would have to deal with this internally, meaning they had X amount of funds to provide these units. Depending on the company, (and I haven't poked around at all for info yet), it's entirely reasonable to assume that they don't have the resources to cover this.

As to publicity, it's basically a non-issue. Saying "we looked out for people who were mislead by a script kiddie" isn't going to win them a lot of positive publicity, some, sure, but not enough to justify the expense. Ignoring it, won't generate them an a lot of negative publicity, again, some, but not so much that they need to spend money to fix it.

They can gleefully sit back, say "it was a hacker, they broke the rules of the contest for you" and take the hit, and be fine. In fact it won't generate them enough publicity either way to be worth spending much more money on this as it is. Entering the false winners into a raffle for a single unit is more than enough to soothe that one over.

Somethingfake:
See, I never understood that. Why stick your head above the parapet and shout "I did it!"? Way to draw attention and a curb stomp on your arse.

Because he is a Taco Bell employee scapegoat posting to take the fall and cover up the screw up.

viranimus:
Hacking and using a bot are not, and never will be the same thing. Please look up an appropriate term instead of using a grossly inappropriate one.You might as well replace the word Hacker with rapist because it would be literally just as accurate.

First, if you were a little less eager to publicly froth you might notice that "hacker" is in quotes. Second, your "rapist" comparison is idiotic. The fact that its use in this context doesn't fit whatever narrow definition you think gives it legitimacy or coolness doesn't render it entirely invalid.

Going by the Kotaku article it sounds like all his bot did was cycle through entry codes trying to find the winning ones. That does nothing to explain why any legitimate entries would have gotten false positives unless they were just marking every xth entry attempt as a winner.

Coming out and saying that you did it, is about as stupid as posting photo's of yourself on Facebook with loot that you stole during a riot.

These "hacker" (and I use the term loosely) idiots just can't stop bragging. Well, he is in a whole lotta trouble now.

As punishment, the hacker will be forced to eat three meals a day from the Taco Bell value menu.

Today on World's Dumbest...

Taco Bell will always win in the end.

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Andy Chalk:

viranimus:
Hacking and using a bot are not, and never will be the same thing. Please look up an appropriate term instead of using a grossly inappropriate one.You might as well replace the word Hacker with rapist because it would be literally just as accurate.

First, if you were a little less eager to publicly froth you might notice that "hacker" is in quotes. Second, your "rapist" comparison is idiotic. The fact that its use in this context doesn't fit whatever narrow definition you think gives it legitimacy or coolness doesn't render it entirely invalid.

Actually, yes I did notice the quotations. On that end I did applaud (personally) that attempt as it was a big improvement. Under normal circumstances that might let it slide. However with a word that is so consistently incorrectly used in one location, and the fact you have evidence even within the thread of the negative impact of using the wrong word trumps the validity of quotation marks.

I do agree that the word rapist was over the top. The point was simply to illustrate how using the wrong word creates negative public reaction and Rapist is one of those words that comes to mind that consistently people will automatically look negatively on. It might have been a more measured response to use the word Therapist instead of rapist, but as you see, therapist is not a word that automatically has a negative connotation to it. However due to repeated misapplication of the word hacker to anything negative that happens with a computer, it has fostered only the negative perception of hackers. So I apologize for using a harsh word, I was simply trying to use a word that has a similar level of negative connotation and use a word that has absolutely no defined link to the other word.

I must disagree with your second point. Its not a narrow definition. It is THE definition. Its not about what I think is legit or cool to use, its about what the word means and more to the point how using the word wrong confuses the reader and gives them an incorrect definition of the term that they will perpetuate the incorrect usage of the term.

In this case as it relates to the Taco Bell Contest, Social engineering fits best. The individual used a basic bot program to inundate the contest with false entries and by doing so they manipulated the people controlling the system of the contest into giving his falsified entry validity and thus physically shipped the device out That is a case of social engineering. However, there is also a level of code cracking involved with this because in order to submit the falsified entries, the entries would have to bear the valid key codes. So this individual likely used a key generator to compile a list of viable submission codes, and then attached those codes to the bot army. However code cracking and social engineering via tactical DDoS attack at no point change the system being used. A hacker in this instance would have reprogrammed the entire server to allow access to even the admin side so that they would be able to assign winners. Not simply working within the system to obtain the desired results. In short a hacker would have won ALL the vitas (or at least as many as they wanted).

I DO get it. Its not practical to change the headline to read "Code cracking social engineer claims responsibility for Vita fiasco" But by that same measure it is not logical to use a term simply because it rolls off the tongue better even though it does not accurately fit what happened.

I am far from frothing. While I likely am exhibiting what might be called definition nazism, there is no vile or venom involved. Its all about using words and labels responsibly because misuse of the word hacker is applying a negative connotation to that word that should not be there.

I still assert the same point. It is the responsibility of the person writing a news article to not color perceptions in what they write. If the reader makes that connection that is unavoidable. However it is irresponsible if the author makes that connection for them.

I have expressed my opinion on the subject, I have done all I can in this instance to try to keep the undeserved negative connotation to be applied to a term that is not even really involved in this topic. Nothing else I can say at this point will change the existing topic, but it is my sincere hope that what I have said helps others to speak more responsibly and might undo some of the undeserved hatred toward hackers anytime Anon does basically anything or Some major corporation gets digitally infiltrated.

Therumancer:
Anonymous hacker claims are meaningless, Taco Bell should be forced to honor all of these winners and such.

Agreed, but at least now Taco Bell knows who to sue over this. Granted they won't be able to recoup the losses from him because he's probably a worthless shit with no value to his name, but they can probably slap him with jail time or some-such to send a "don't fuck with our contests" message.

Andy, who said that last line? I want to say you are quoting someone else, but I can't find an original author.

As I am in the forefront of this fiasco, I can say that we are going to find this guy. We (the people in the faceboo group) are the ones who caught him and handed him and some other over to Taco Bell, and are leaving it up to them to deal with him for now. This whole thing is very far from over, and we will get our Vitas, no matter how hard we have to fight.

fletch_talon:
I don't know who is the lower form of scum.
The piece of shit who "hacked" the competition, or the ignorant dickheads congratulating him on a job well done.

Some people seem too eager to take the side of the thieves, (...), hackers and various other cyber criminals these days. It sickens me.

Rule of Cool, Hack the Planet, Stick it to "The Man", Row Row Fight Da Powah!.

Basically I summed up everything. Vandalism and grafitti tagging in general are prime examples of this.

I'd far rather have to deal with one guy determined to exploit the system than a system that's determined to exploit everybody.

You actually expect Taco Bell to be "civilized"? No. "Nothing of value was lost". He bitch slapped a giant.

Somethingfake:
See, I never understood that. Why stick your head above the parapet and shout "I did it!"? Way to draw attention and a curb stomp on your arse.

Why did Osama claim Al Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 when someone else could take the blame?

Why do rappers claim they were gangsters who were involved in robbery and shootouts?

obisean:
Andy, who said that last line? I want to say you are quoting someone else, but I can't find an original author.

He did. It reminds me of a quote, maybe Mark Twain or an eighteenth century political philosopher, but I think the actual phrasing is new.

 

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