The Hacker News - Profiting Off Extensive Plagiarism from Legitimate News Sources

Sat Jan 14 18:36:19 CST 2012


The Hacker News (THN, thehackernews.com), not to be confused with the venerable Hacker News Network (HNN), is a relatively new site that seeks to aggregate news related to computer security and hacking. Most aggregation sites simply compile news from other sources, providing proper citation in the form of a link and reference to the original. THN opts to "write" their news articles instead, rarely providing a reference to the original source(s). The site is based in India and run by Mohit Kumar (@unix_root on Twitter). According to their about us page, THN offers "training and knowledge-based solutions".

    

When the site was first launched, a few people criticized it for posting articles without proper attribution. These complaints seem to have gone unnoticed. We tweeted the following on March 10, 2011:

hrm.. @TheHackersNews looks suspiciously like a blatant rip of the @ThisIsHNN .. and reposting content sans attribution under CC-BY? shady

After several people mailed us about the site, suggesting they were plagiarizing content, we gave it another look. After more criticism this year, Mohit Kumar replied to explain the apparent plagiarism:

@shipcod3 @attritionorg ,Site Linked ! We miss to link source sometimes,bcoz most of the news submitted by Followers,bt later we always link

Kumar's statement is false. As of this article, only 3 of the first 50 articles we examined provided source attribution. Going back over a month, a majority of articles are still not sourced. More interesting is Kumar's claim that "most of the news [is] submitted by Followers" when every single article we examined was posted by Mohit Kumar. Even if followers are submitting the stories, Kumar himself is the one posting them. As such, it is his responsibility to ensure the articles are properly sourced. Since many articles are a combination of his own writing along with portions plagiarized from the original source, we do not believe that most articles are submitted to him. The few articles that do provide a link to the source do so in a fashion that is not appropriate for citation. Looking at the following screenshot, it is clear that the article title, byline, and bulk of the text offer no indication that it is sourced from elsewhere. Only a small [Source] is provided at the bottom. In many cases, it is the source of some material in the article. This mixed content, using some material verbatim without attribution, is the textbook definition of plagiarism.


(The [Source] link is circled in red.)

While there are probably countless other news portals similar to THN, they have over 33,000 Twitter followers and boast they are "internationally recognized" and "a leading news source". Considering they also prominently display a "Donate" box on every page, that means The Hacker News is likely profiting off the plagiarism and copyright violations.

Should you wish to complain, they conveniently publish their DMCA Policy that requires you to write to them under the formal guidelines of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to request copyrighted material be removed. Knowingly posting plagiarized material and then forcing the original authors to go to these lengths to have content removed is unethical and underhanded.

The Plagiarism

The following table details a brief sampling of 10 articles examined for plagiarism and copyright infringement, without proper source attribution. Both the THN and original article are provided, along with the date each was published. Most articles consist of some original content, written by Mohit Kumar, along with some material that is verbatim from the original source. A few of the articles examined took material from multiple articles to piece together the THN article. In some cases, Kumar will use an HTML link to a source used by the article he copies from, which is not proper citation and does not excuse the willful infringement of copyright and inexcusable plagiarism.


TheHackersNews Article Original Source
One-click fraud targeting Japan Smartphone Users, posted by Mohit Kumar on 2012-01-14 One-Click Fraud Targeting Smartphones in Japan by Joji Hamada on 2011-12-19
Smartphones: The Next One-Click Billing Fraud Target by Noriaki Hayashi on 2011-08-30
Chinese hackers deploy Sykipot Trojan targeting smart card readers used by U.S, posted by Mohit Kumar on 2012-01-13 Under malware attack: Smart cards used by U.S. government agencies, by Ryan Naraine on 2012-01-12
Israel treating hackers like terrorists, posted by Mohit Kumar on 2012-01-08 Israel to treat hackers like 'terrorists' by AFP on 2012-01-07
Ramnit Worm steals 45000 Facebook passwords, posted by Mohit Kumar on 2012-01-07 Dammit Ramnit! Worm slurps 45,000 Facebook passwords, by John Leyden on 2012-01-05
Pentagon approved Android to be used by DoD officials, posted by Mohit Kumar on 2011-12-26 Android Approved By Pentagon For DoD Usage, Major Setback For iPhone by Swapnil Bhartiya on 2011-12-25
Hewlett-Packard printers remote hacks Security fix available, posted by Mohit Kumar on 2011-12-24 Hewlett-Packard offers fix for printers susceptible to remote hacks, by NYDailyNews on 2011-12-23
Web is vulnerable to hashing denial-of-service attack ( #hashdos ) with Demo, posted by Mohit Kumar on 2011-12-19 Huge portions of the Web vulnerable to hashing denial-of-service attack by Jon Brodkin on 2011-12-28
Carrier IQ acting as Special Agent for FBI?, posted by Mohit Kumar on 2011-12-13 Is Carrier IQ data being used in an FBI investigation?, by Michael Santo / Tech Buzz Examiner on 2011-12-12
Yahoo Messenger 0-Day Exploit allow status message hijacking, posted by Mohit Kumar on 2011-12-02 Yahoo Messenger flaw enables spamming through other people's status messages by Lucian Constantin on 2011-12-02
Largest DDOS attack hit Chinese company, posted by Mohit Kumar on 2011-11-24 Chinese Company Hit By Mega-DDoS Attack by John E Dunn on 2011-11-23