Rhodri Marsden: Is 'I've been hacked' the lamest excuse ever?

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Incredibly, I've managed never to send anything across the internet that's suddenly caused me to squeal in regret, break out in a sweat and rack my brains for an excuse.

I've never copied someone in on an email detailing the reasons why said person is an blithering idiot. Nor have I sent people pictures of myself in a gimp suit, not least because I've never worn one (he said hastily). But had I done either of these things, I may have resorted to that increasingly common excuse: "I've been hacked."

It's become as overused as "the dog ate my homework", or "darling, I've never met this woman before" - and it's about as believable.

Last week saw the resignation of Manchester City's chief executive, Garry Cook, following an email he'd accidentally sent to a player's mother that made light of her cancer.

While Cook claimed he'd been hacked, the club's IT department suggested otherwise. In any case, surely hackers have greater ambitions than making social blunders? Equally, they have better things to do than hack the Twitter account of the footballer Rohan Ricketts, and post regular grumbles about not being picked.

This isn't to say that hacking doesn't go on. I've no doubt that Kirstie Allsopp's chastising of Sir Alan Sugar on Twitter was the work of a hacker, or that the pictures of Burnley FC's Keith Treacy grinning ear to ear as he displayed his genitals were posted by someone other than him. But the excuse is wearing thin.

Last week, pop caterwauler Pink cried "hack!" as personal Facebook pictures found their way into the public domain - but it's more likely that she just screwed up her security settings.

Much of this cynicism springs from a recent incident where former US congressman Anthony Weiner posted a picture of his bulging underpants on Twitter, then blamed hackers.

In doing so, he was asking us to believe not only that hackers relinquished control within seconds, but also that they possessed a selection of Weiner's underpants shots in the first place.

Same goes for the lead singer of the rock group Paramore, who accidentally posted a topless picture of herself on Twitter, then deleted it, then said she'd been hacked and claimed the picture wasn't her - despite the picture being of her.

We understand their embarrassment but claiming you've been hacked, rather than stupid, only makes it worse. A few years ago I read about an executive who regularly sent angry emails to the wrong people.

As a result he had the IT department reconfigure the server to allow him 30 seconds to pull out an ethernet cable. If that 30 seconds were implemented across the net, hacking claims would fall substantially.

There's a diverting but pointless tool tucked away on the Google website called Google Correlate. While graphs of search trends over time are fascinating, this does the opposite: you draw the curve on a timeline between 2004 and 2011, and then see which trends it corresponds to.

I discovered that a gentle U curve, peaking in 2004 and 2011, corresponds to "dental insurance California" (I've no idea why).

Meanwhile, the opposite curve, peaking in mid 2007, corresponds to "gimp help". Full marks to me for getting the word "gimp" into this column three times. It won't happen again.

- THE INDEPENDENT

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