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Nomar, you’ve got a friend
Hacker caught casting 25,000 votes for Garciaparra
Posted: Wednesday July 07, 1999 09:45 PM
A 25-year-old Massachusetts hacker, hoping to give Garciaparra a boost after it was announced he trailed Jeter by some 20,000 votes, attempted to stuff the ballot box using a computer program to vote repeatedly over the Internet.
Chris Nandor, of Carver, attempted to vote for Garciaparra almost 40,000 times. When the AL released its lineup Monday, there was Garciaparra on top, edging Jeter by 20,446 votes.
But before Yankees fans could cry foul, Major League Baseball explained that Garciaparra won fair and square.
Although Garciaparra was named on the majority of the 800,000 Internet ballots -- all of which were counted last week -- Nandor's were not among them. Fans were allowed to vote a maximum of 22 times on the Internet, which is the average number of home games for each team during the balloting.
"We've outlined certain procedures that catch 99 percent of the potential problems out there," said Alex Kam, director of Major League Baseball's Web site. "It does happen quite frequently, [but] they filter it out."
Kam says Nandor used a computer programming language to evade limits on how many times a person could vote on the Internet.
On May 19, Nandor tried to vote 14,000 times, Kam said. And he reportedly added 25,259 more tainted votes for Garciaparra from June 25-27. The ballots also voted for Red Sox players Scott Hatteberg, John Valentin and Jose Offerman.
"Nothing is foolproof," Kam said. "But if you're talking about the average high-end hacker, we think we can catch them."
Nandor says when he heard Garciaparra had garnered enough votes to start, he suspected perhaps he had had something to do with it.
"Well, when I first heard he won, I wasn't sure, but I thought it could've been me," Nandor told The Associated Press on Tuesday night. "But I also thought it could've been other people in addition to me."
But Nandor wasn't doing it just for kicks.
"I think in large part I did it just because the All-Star Game was going to be in Fenway, so I felt Nomar deserved a start on his home turf, with the incredible season he's had," he said in an e-mail to The Boston Globe. "I still might have done it if the game had been in New York, but it makes me feel good to have this justification for my actions."
What apparently did in Nandor was a certain amount of laziness. In his first attempt in May, Nandor used the same e-mail address. His last attempt, in June, he used the same phone number (111-222-3333) and ZIP code (11111). Nandor wrote that he set his computer to run repeatedly, then went to a barbecue.
Because he didn't vary those basic bits of information, the systems administrators at CBS SportsLine, the Internet site which conducted the voting on the Web for Major League Baseball, caught on quickly, Kam said.
"SportsLine developed the ballots with numerous safeguards in place," Kam said. "They look at all the results on any given day and scan for patterns. ... They were very well aware of him from Day 1, and blocked him out."
Jon Orwant, a doctoral candidate at MIT's Media Lab who inadvertently tipped off The Boston Globe about his friend Nandor's program, remains unconvinced that the system can withstand a clever hacker."If they claim their system is foolproof, they're wrong," he said. "I'll prove it to them next year."
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