Computer Crime Research Center


Computer Crime Causes Some Victims To Become Ill

Date: May 15, 2008
By: Suzanne Collins

BALTIMORE (WJZ) ― Computer hackers have stolen private information, disrupted workplaces and now, in an unusual case, the victims of a computer crime have actually become sick.

Suzanne Collins reports on what happened to people with epilepsy who visited a popular non-profit's website.

A video is being made in Baltimore for the Epilepsy Foundation's popular website.

"I saw him having a seizure and because I had never seen or witnessed anyone having an episode, I didn't know what to do," said Mercedes Delahoz.

A million people a month living with epilepsy turn to the National Foundation's website for helpful information. But recently, someone hacked into the system and posted a malicious video there. It looked like moving shapes, but with a much faster strobe effect.

The president of the foundation was outraged because people with epilepsy can have an episode when they see flashing images and some become ill.

"We were actually alerted to the problem by one of our e-community members who saw these flashing lights and had a severe migraine. She didn't have a seizure; she had a severe migraine. She alerted us and we immediately brought the site down," said Eric Hargis.

The Baltimore FBI is investigating the computer crime because the non-profit is located in Maryland.

A woman living with epilepsy says the hacker may not know how many people could have been severely injured by seizures as a result of their actions.

"You just lose control of everything. I've been through a lot of situations like that. I've fallen, hit my head, driven a car and crashed before while having a seizure," said Lashell Rivers.

The foundation says it has no idea how many people got sick from the malicious program but it drew the epilepsy community together.

After the cyber attack, the Epilepsy Foundation got a lot of sympathetic calls. A couple of security companies offered to tighten up their security for free.

The head of the organization says this new form of cyber-crime is very worrisome.

"I was absolutely shocked by this. We know individuals have used the website in the past to try to steal money or to promote certain ideas but to actually use the web to cause physical harm to people, it's shocking," Hargis said.

The FBI said the computer criminal could face serious charges, but it's very hard to trace the source of such crimes.

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