Sports Network, victim of a Chinese hacker drive-by, is back online as it recovers and revamps security following a Sunday attack.
In an interview, Sports Network CEO Mickey Charles detailed some preliminary parts of its recovery plan and a few more details of the attack, which began early Sunday. As noted on Monday, Chinese hackers targeted SportsNetwork because they thought it was part of CNN, which is under attack for an anchorman's comments about Tibet.
"The hackers thought we were part of CNN, but we're just a source for CNNSI," said Charles. "Who do I call for an apology--the Chinese government? Luckily, we were able to recoup a lot of things right away."
The company's sports information and wire service was the priority when SportsNetwork brought its operations back up. Within a few hours, SportsNetwork, which primarily competes with Stats Inc., was serving its feeds to thousands of customers, which range from portals to most newspapers in the U.S. The data feeds (example right) represent the bulk of SportsNetwork's revenue. The company's site serves more as marketing showcase. That's why Charles wasn't freaking out Tuesday because his site still read:
The Sports Network website and other major news sites have been hacked by a political entity from China, and as a result are temporarily unavailable. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope to be back up and running as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
"The Web site isn't where the revenue stream is," said Charles. "It's just a showcase that bloomed and grew. It's not an advertising based model that sustains the company."
The lesson: Recover the revenue generating tools first. Sports Network, based in Hatboro, PA, has about 130 employees, a CTO and about 18 developers working on the site.
For now, Sports Network's recovery operation has been staffed by internal resources. Charles, a big HP customer, did note that he called HP, but was told there were no technical resources available for his company. "They said 'we're up to our ass with people calling us,'" said Charles.
As for security consultants, Sports Network hasn't used any yet, but Charles did note that the company may need "someone that knows Perl."
Will Sports Network change its security policies? Charles said on the security front his company had "all the things that everyone has" and noted that it's obvious that his firm will have to do more. The challenge is that any change the company makes will have to be echoed by more than 1,000 customers.
Sports Network may speed up plans to add another layer of security, but is leaving the planning to his CTO. Whatever Sports Network does it'll have to do so quickly. "The irony is we're sending a gang of people to Beijing for the Olympics," says Charles.