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USA Today investigating hack attack

The national newspaper calls in law enforcement to pursue online vandals that posted a fake front page and six prank stories.

National newspaper USA Today said Friday that one or more online vandals had posted a fake front page and six phony news stories on its Web site.

Network administrators have yet to determine how the vandals compromised the company's Web server Thursday night. The national newspaper has called in local law enforcement to help find out who defaced the site with fake stories.

"We are still looking into it and still investigating," said Steve Anderson, director of communications for the McLean, Va., newspaper. "We're going to do whatever we can to find out who did this."

The hack puts Gannett-owned USA Today in with a high-profile crowd of victims of media hacks, including The New York Times' site. Employees at several wire services--including M2 Newswire and Internet Wire--have also posted false news releases.

Hacker Adrian Lamo made headlines earlier this year when he gained access to The New York Times' internal operations network, where he was able to view information about employees and sources. Lamo was also behind a hack that altered a news story on Yahoo last year.

By its own account, USA Today caught this defacement before any significant damage was done.

The Web site defacement happened at 7:50 p.m. PDT on Thursday and lasted 15 minutes before USA Today employees noticed the change and took down the site. By 11 p.m., the company's official news site had been restored, Anderson said.

"The hackers put up a phony front page and six news stories that they linked off the page," he said. "None of our content was actually touched."

Anderson described the fake news stories as "immature and very poorly written," adding that "it was obvious after reading the first line that they weren't real articles."