Journo's accounts hacked

01:33, Oct 25 2012
Peter Arnett
Peter Arnett in Wellington after receiving ONZM from the Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae earlier this year.

A legendary kiwi war reporter has found himself fighting a cyber battle against faceless crooks.

Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Peter Arnett was born in Riverton, Southland, but made a name for himself reporting on the Vietnam and Gulf Wars for various United States publishers and TV networks.

His contacts and commitment have taken him deep into war zones all over the world, even as far as interviewing Osama bin Laden in 1997.

However, that same contact list, featuring thousands of people and some very prestigious names, was sent an "urgent" email this week.

"Sorry to bother you with this. Am presently in Spain with my ill Cousin. She's suffering from a kidney disease and must undergo Kidney Transplant to save her life," (sic) the email begins.

It goes on to ask for $2000 to have surgery undertaken.


Arnett had been hacked.

But it was not just the cheeky request sent out. All Arnett's messages disappeared, files lost into the vastness of cyberspace, and suddenly one of the most well-connected journos ever was disconnected.

"For a while (it was) a sort of cyber death, with my lost internet life flashing before my eyes," he said.

Nowadays Arnett works at a university in Southern China but the hackers hit while he was preparing for a speaking engagement in Beijing.

"I realised I had lost all my flight and hotel information, plus contacts in Beijing," he said.

After a two-hour conversation trying to convince his email provider's New Delhi call centre he was not the hacker, some of his information dribbled back.

The experience highlighted the fallibility of the internet for the 77-year-old, which he said "could be wielded like a blunt instrument".

Arnett said the scam had dragged in several friends and relatives, who replied with offers of help for the non-existent Spanish cousin

"When a palpably fake message is sent in your name, written in poor English, and describing a personal crisis you have suffered that requires immediate cash, don't assume that everyone you know understand it is phony," he said.

"Don't misunderstand me. I'm mad as hell at the hacker but not the internet. I love the internet. But today I love it less."

Fairfax Media