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Holy Spirit, Batman! Superhero Story on Vatican Website Not a Hack

Holy Spirit, Batman! Superhero Story on Vatican Website Not a Hack

Today in international tech news: The Vatican says that its story about Batman was the result of spotty English, not a hacker; BBC Twitter accounts are hacked and filled with inaccurate (but kind of funny) reports; Amazon takes yet more flak over taxes in the UK; and Hong Kong plots underground data centers.

By David Vranicar
03/22/13 8:37 AM PT

No, this isn't the Catholic Church's way of appealing to comic book fans.

On Thursday, the website of the Vatican communications office and Vatican Twitter account ran stories on Batman. While some initially suspected hacking, Vatican officials are instead saying that there was an "internal system failure" caused by a non-native English speaker -- and apparent Batman enthusiast -- who posted the story.

Running under the headline, "Holy Switcheroo! Batman has grown bitter, more vengeful with the years," the article was from the Catholic News Service and chronicled the history of the Batman franchise.

This is particularly offbeat for the Vatican's website, whose other Thursday stories included an explanation on how Pope Francis chose his name, and information about registering for a congress on the media's role in promoting peace.

A Vatican spokesman said that the social communications office regularly plucks stories from the Catholic News Service, which is the news agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. When a story is posted, it generates an automatic tweet, which is why both the Twitter account and website were pushing a story about Batman. At first, the spokesman thought it was hacking-related.

[Source: Associated Press]

BBC Twitter Account Hacked by "Syrian Electric Army"

A group calling itself the Syrian Electric Army hacked a handful of BBC Twitter accounts on Thursday.

The BBC's weather and Arabic accounts were among the many that were hacked and then filled with drivel, including fake weather conditions in the Middle East and tweets such as, "Saudi weather station down due to head-on collision with camel," and, "Chaotic weather forecast for Lebanon as the government decides to distance itself from the Milky Way."

The BBC has since regained control of the accounts and deleted the bunk tweets.

The hacks coincided with a phishing email that was sent to some BBC staff, although it's not known if the email was the wormhole into the Twitter accounts.

The BBC hack was the latest in an ongoing string of high-profile Twitter hijacks, which include breaches of the Burger King and Chrysler accounts, among others.

[Source: BBC]

Amazon Takes (More) Flak Over UK Taxes

Having already been thoroughly and repeatedly grilled by UK lawmakers for tax avoidance, Amazon is now dealing with a petition nearing 100,000 signatures.

The petition, which sprouted at change.org, was launched by independent booksellers and is imploring Amazon to "pay their fair share" of UK taxes.

The booksellers, Frances and Keith Smith, reportedly plan to present their petition to the government accompanied by supporters.

Amazon has not been found guilty of breaking any laws -- just of clever accounting. Last October, for instance, there was an uproar over the fact that Amazon charged British publishers a 20 percent value added tax on e-book sales. However, Amazon's European headquarters is in tax-friendly Luxembourg, which has a VAT of just 3 percent. Ergo, Amazon collects far more VAT than it pays.

[Source: The Guardian]

Hong Kong Takes Data Underground

To alleviate its space crunch, Hong Kong is considering building data centers in underground caves.

A "rock cavern development" is something the government is discussing, a spokesperson said Thursday, but added that it is difficult for a variety of reasons, including the possible necessity of lowering water tables and removing toxic materials.

Five large areas have reportedly already been selected as possible "strategic cavern areas."

Norway has an underground data center, as does Kansas City.

[Source: The Register]


David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author of The Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out his ECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.


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