'Computerworld' Duped by Hoax Web Site

Last week the Web site of Computerworld magazine published a story claiming a radical Islamic group was behind the recent Slammer worm attack that clogged the Internet. The next day the story was embarrassingly retracted after it was learned that one journalist had deceived another. Dan Verton had based his article on an e-mail interview with a person he identified as “Abu Mujahid,” a member of Pakistan-based Harkat-ul-Mujahadeen. But Mujahid was really Brian McWilliams, 43, a free-lance journalist in Durham, N.H., who has written for and Wired News. McWilliams said he had duped Verton because he wanted to teach reporters “to be more skeptical of people who claim they’re involved in cyberterrorism.” In a follow-up story, Verton wrote, “I feel like I’ve been had, and that’s never an easy thing to swallow. So, I’m left here scratching fleas as the price you sometimes pay for sleeping with dogs.” The fiasco is a good reminder of the risks involved in relying on e-mail interviews and the importance of verifying sources.

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