Call it the case of the unexplained hack.
This morning, reporters throughout cyberspace were greeted by an email message claiming the Los Angeles Police Department's Web site got hacked last night.
Although the Web site now shows a blank, gray screen, a copy of the alleged hack bears a political message accusing the LAPD of racism, calling it the "Death Squad Home Page."
It appeared to be a standard hack, without the pornography or juvenile images used when vandals broke into pages at the Air Force, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Justice Department.
The only problem is that it apparently never happened. The whole story appears to be a hoax about a hoax, at least according to the Net service providers involved with the site.
About a year ago, an LAPD police officer went to Internet Presence Providers for Net access. That got Peter Hertan, president of IPP, thinking. He checked and found out that "www.lapd.org" had never been registered with the InterNIC. So he went ahead and filed for it.
Sure enough, nearly a year later, some LAPD officers determined to build an LAPD Web site asked to buy back the URL and Hertan sold it to them at cost.
The officers then asked EarthLink if it would host the site. EarthLink said that it would when the police officers got the official go-ahead.
But that go-ahead never came. The officers went up and down the chain of command and at every level, the answer came back the same: No.
So from May of last year, when it was
registered, until today, the LAPD site consisted of a gray screen with the words "lapd.org Initial Home Page."
Hertan says that from the day he put it up to the
day it was taken down, "nothing was added to the Web site. Nothing was taken away. We show no evidence of it being hacked."
EarthLink never made the site live either, says Jon Irwin, vice
president of customer support.
Since the site never really existed, it couldn't have been hacked. That means either someone got the story wrong or concocted an hack that wasn't really a hack.
In any case, the Webmaster at "lapd.com," the official officers' union page and the closest thing to an LAPD Internet site, says it has been untouched by hacker hands.
For the LAPD, the whole episode is proof of nothing except that rumors can travel very quickly on the Net. "I've already hit the news, and I haven't even done anything with the site," said one officer who had tried to help create the site.