Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Internet Never Forgets

"Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead". And the Internet is the last place you want to use to keep a secret.

The Beijing Olympics 2008 came to a close last week. Sports are being laced with an increasing amount of controversies every year, and the Beijing Olympics 2008 was no exception. Many officials doubted the age of the Chinese women's gymnastics team. And a sleuth by the nickname of "Stryde Hax" went to work digging up the Internet for clues.

On August 19, Mike Walker published a blog post under the name of Stryde Hax showing evidence unearthed from the Internet that China had attempted to falsify the ages of two female gymnasts. There were others before Mike who had also followed the same route. The first of such Internet evidence was referenced in the New York Times on July 27th, almost two weeks before the opening ceremony. The Huffington Post carried an article on August 14th detailing thoroughly how evidence from the Internet was uncovered.

Mike Walker, the New York Times, The Huffington Post, all followed a simple approach - let us search the Internet for Chinese sports records documents. Surely these gymnasts would have certainly participated in local and national competitions. Press coverage and sports records would indicate their age. All it took was knowing some advanced search options, proper keywords and some online translation from Chinese to English. Search engines like Google and Baidu (the most popular Chinese search engine) yielded links to documents belonging to the Sports Authority of China and some other press coverage on local and national sporting events. Not surprisingly, many of these documents were removed from their original web sites and news stories had been modified where the age was changed from 14 to 16, but the Internet never forgets. Cached copies of these documents existed in many search engines. Projects such as The Internet Archive keep a copy of almost all web pages since 1996! And sure enough, these documents turned up in caches and archives all over.

On August 21st, the IOC announced that a formal investigation has been initiated into this matter.

Links to detailed analysis of how it was done, along with the original documents, can be found on the CyberWatch blog - see article Beijing Olympics Controversy.

Lastly, I would like to sensitize every Internet user about their privacy. Be careful of what you upload to sites on the Internet. You will never be able to get rid of it again, it is "remembered" forever.

Published: Times of India, Ahmedabad, 27-Aug-08

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Beijing Olympics Controversy

The role of the Internet is vital in any global event. Live coverage, news, videos, blogs, buzz, marketing, advertising - the Internet brought the Beijing Olympics 2008 to a fast paced world, on the move. Interestingly, the Internet also played a role in uncovering evidence to what may be one of the greatest scandals in Olympic history.

It had been rumoured that the Chinese women's gymnastics team members were below the mandatory age limit for competition. Digging around the Internet yielded some incredible results. Read on!

27 July 2008: Records Say Chinese Gymnasts May Be Under Age, NYTimes

14 August 2008: Scandal of the Ages: Documents Reveal Underage Chinese Gymnast, Huffington Post

14 August 2008: CHINA BUSTED Scrubbing Internet of Articles That Show Gymnasts Are Too Young

19 August 2008: Hack the Olympics - blog post by Stryde Hax

21 August 2008: IOC orders probe over China’s He Kexin’s age, Yahoo Sports

Documents archive: on The Internet Archive
Translated version in English
Original Excel spreadsheet (in Chinese) mirror
PDF version of the spreadsheet (in Chinese)

Chinese scrubbing at work:

People's Daily Online, China declaring He Kexin as a 14 year old on May 23 2008
The same article altered on China Daily showing Kexin's age as 16
Google cache of China Daily originally showing Kexin's age as 14 showing the altered version of Kexin's age being 16

Uncovering clues from the Internet:

J0hnny Long's site - The Google Hacking Database

What happens next? Who knows!

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Firefox bus

Kalyan Varma found an interesting bus on the Indian roads. Shows how popular the best browser in the world has become!

More pictures on