Time Magazine's Top 100 Poll Hacked For the Lulz

In what some might consider the most visible Internet-based prank to date, frequenters of the 4chan image-based bulletin board site's "/b/ - Random" imageboard claim to have rigged Time Magazine's Top 100 online poll, so as to render 4chan's founder, "moot," the winner. And even though some fairly convincing circumstantial evidence points to a hack of epic proportions, Time Magazine is accepting the poll's results as official, and has declared moot as the "new owner of the title World's Most Influential Person."

The message hidden in the first letter of the first 21 winners
is very strong proof that the poll was hacked.
(Credit: Paul Lamere)

This not the first time that 4chan's users have been associated with online-based pranks. Wikipedia's 4chan entry states that 4chan has been credited with being the starting point for Rickrolling as well as for turning the video of Tay Zonday singing "Chocolate Rain" on YouTube into a popular Internet meme. 4chan users have also been associated with the Anonymous group, Project Chanology, hacking Sarah Palin's Yahoo! e-mail account, as well as a laundry list of other sundry activities.

The Time poll hack all started when Time chose to include moot as one of the candidates for the poll. When 4chan users took note of this, users banded together to find ways to elevate moot's ranking to number one. Blogger Paul Lamere has a fascinating play-by-play account of how the hack was engineered, which can be found here. Lamere was invited to an IRC chatroom where he got the details from "a key player in the hack."

The short version of the hack is that users found a number of ways to exploit the poll's code and they actually engineered scripts that took advantage of these exploits and even automated the voting process--one such script was able to cast "about 5,000 votes a minute." Even after Time attempted to foil the efforts by removing at least some of the exploits, the hackers still found ways to manipulate the voting. Ultimatley, moot won with 16,794,368 votes; the second place finisher, Anwar Ibrahim, finished with 2,316,378 votes.

"Mooter is a Delphi app (windows only) that can submit
about 300 votes per minute from a single IP address."

(Credit: Paul Lamere)

Not content to just ensure that moot won the poll, users further manipulated voting so that they determined the top 21 finishers of the poll as well. The result was that the first letter of each of the top 21 finishers spelled out: "Marblecake Also The Game," which is actually references to two different 4chan inside jokes.

According to Lamere's source--whom Lamere refers to as "Zombocom": "Marblecake was an irc channel where the 'Message to Scientology' video originated. Many believe we are 'dead' or only doing hugraids etc, so I thought it would also be a way of saying: we're still around and we don't just do only 'moralfag' stuff."

In other words, this hack had no real social agenda, and was essentially done for the sheer fun of it--or more aptly, as Zombocom told Lamere, they did it "For the lulz."