All That Chat, Theatre Message Board Known for Anonymous Attacks, Gets Anonymous Attack

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13 Jan 2011

All That Chat, the popular internet message board on which anonymous theatre mavens and practitioners share rants, praise, speculation, news, questions and criticism on all things theatrical, was hacked in recent days, Ann Miner, an administrator of the parent site, TalkinBroadway.com, confirmed.

Other parts of Talkin' Broadway were not affected, but All That Chat has been shut down in recent days to allow administrators to fix the kinks caused by the hacking. The hacker has not been identified, Miner said.

Readers reported that when they clicked on message threads on the ATC board in recent days, viruses or virus alerts entered their computers.

Miner told Playbill.com, "The virus thing is part of what the hacker did. Anyone with an up to date anti-virus program did not receive the virus, though their anti-virus program would have popped up with an alert. We are advising anyone who visited ATC since Sunday [Jan. 9] to scan their computer with an anti-virus program."

The message board system came under a couple of different "malicious attacks" beginning on Jan. 9, Miner said.



Talkin' Broadway, which has an all-volunteer staff, has solicited donations from posters and readers to help pay for the update to the system. There is no charge to read (or post on) the board, but there is a registration process to post messages. Most posters use a screen name to hide their identities.

"We — mostly our genius tech guy Dan Foley — traced the entry points and the damage," Miner said. "If donations from readers and posters continue as they have begun, we'll be installing an on-site security program tomorrow to protect the site from future attacks. We're hoping to have All That Chat back online on Friday. The attack has not affected other areas of our website."

When asked about readership numbers, Miner said, "We don't track visitors on a regular basis, and don't give out our statistics."

As of the afternoon of Jan. 13, an alert on ATC read: "We are running a test — please do not click on threads or attempt to post. It may compromise your computer."

When asked about the irony of an unknown hacker spoiling a message board populated by the writings of unknown people, Adam Feldman, the Time Out New York theatre journalist who is president of the New York Drama Critics' Circle — and who has posted messages under his own name on ATC — observed, "I sign my name to my views and reviews, and I think that keeps me in check sometimes — which is not a bad thing. Anonymity is a double-edged sword: It permits greater honesty, but protects greater malice. People with pseudonymous accounts have no accountability; and since the positive rarely has reason to hide, namelessness favors the negative.

"What depresses me about ATC is the way it permits bad buzz to spread virally, at the speed of a sneeze. So yes, it's ironic that the site has been downed by, of all things, a computer virus.

"For professional reasons, I try to avoid the more poisonous threads, and stick to the ones that are informative and smart. If I don't miss all of All That Chat, I do miss those, and I want them back."