The FBI confirmed to PC World that it is investigating the recent intrusion by a group of hackers into Gawker Media's servers last weekend. The hack exposed more than 200,000 reader e-mail addresses and passwords, and the data is now circulating online as a peer-to-peer torrent file. An FBI representative declined to comment further about the ongoing investigation; however, Gawker Media founder and CEO Nick Denton was scheduled to meet with federal authorities on Monday, according to The New York Post .
On Sunday, an online hacker collective calling itself Gnosis broke into the servers of Gawker Media, which owns a variety of popular online blogs including Deadspin, Fleshbot, Gawker, Gizmodo, Jezebel, io9, Jalopnik, Kotaku and Lifehacker. The hackers obtained the e-mail addresses and passwords for the company's employees, and the source code for Gawker Media's content management system. Gnosis hackers also obtained the login credentials for readers who were registered to leave comments on Gawker Media websites.
Gawker Media said most user login information was encrypted, but Gnosis managed to crack the credentials for more than 200,000 accounts. The exposed login information is now part of a data dump contained in a torrent file available on peer-to-peer file sharing networks.
It's not entirely clear what inspired the attack against Gawker, but a person claiming to represent Gnosis recently told the blog Mediaite that the hacker group broke into the company's servers because of Gawker's "outright arrogance." Previously, it was suggested the Gawker hack was related to the company's ongoing feud with members of 4chan, an online message board. The Gnosis representative said there was no connection between the hacker group and 4chan.
Despite the potentially criminal acts perpetrated by Gnosis hackers, more high-minded hackers (among software engineers the term hacker refers to someone who is a programming expert) were coming to the defense of Gawker Media users. Readers of Y Combinator's Hacker News -- a news aggregator and discussion thread for technology start-up entrepreneurs and software engineers -- banded together to create an automated e-mail program to alert the 200,000 people whose e-mails and passwords were exposed by Gnosis.
If arrested, it's not yet clear what charges those responsible for breaking into Gawker's servers would face.