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Arts Block website suffers hack attacks

CORRECTION: The article erroneously said that the site was now being hosted by Yes Exactly Web Design. Although that Greenfield firm is helping to fix the problems, it is not hosting the site.

GREENFIELD — When Ed Wierzbowski bought Greenfield’s Arms Block and the former Franklin Savings Institution to bring high-profile musical performances to local audiences, the last thing he imagined having to deal with was Indonesian hackers.

But Wierzbowski, whose Arts Block and Pushkin Gallery venues have hosted a world of entertainment, has had his website, Theartsblock.com, hacked for the third time, and the second time in less than a week, crimping advance ticket sales for Friday’s second annual Cider Days Harvest Party, featuring the Unique Jazz Trio with Becca Byram.

“It’s been mind-boggling,” said Wierzbowski. “Here it’s one of my biggest events, a really big thing. It’s kind of bizarre how they can just step into your life and impact you. It completely screws everything up.”

For more than a day, anyone who went to the Arts Block site to check the calendar or buy advance tickets instead found that it had been invaded by “Semarang Blackhat” hackers, replacing the site’s home page with a black screen with green writing and a message in red and white type: “Security lose!!”

Semarang is a city on the northern coast of the Indonesian island of Java and is capital of Central Java province.

The hacked site also blasted the visitor with what appeared to be Indonesian rock music, making Arts Block Cafe seem more like the genuine JavaNet Cafe.

“I’m just at a loss, financially and in what to do having to deal with this,” said Wierzbowski, who said he first learned about the hacking from a text message on Monday and was working to repair his site as of Tuesday afternoon.

Wierzbowski, who believes he was randomly targeted by hackers who “have nothing to gain” by crashing his site, called the hacking “completely debilitating. This wasn’t in the book when I started out, saying this is going to be one of your problems. Its bizarre, and its supposedly people from Indonesia just kind of playing around. I don’t even understand their motivation.”

Wierzbowski said he uses his site to let people know the schedule of events at Arts Block and Pushkin venues, and also draws customers with discounted advance-sale tickets, of which he expects about 300 will be sold for Friday’s show. The site also sells music downloads from previous concerts.

“People can’t buy pre-sale tickets, they can’t see the schedule of what’s happening, and I have to pay a programer to fix it,” said Wierzbowski, adding that he’s gotten different explanations for whether the program he’s using is leaving him vulnerable or whether it’s the host, Hostmaster.com.

“It will cost a few thousand (dollars) to change the site, and now that I’m an easy target, they can just keep coming back again and again,” he said. “I can’t afford to keep paying experts to fix it, and then it’s hacked again. I feel it’s like being assaulted on the street, like being robbed. But I have no idea who to report it to.”

The first hacking incident came a month or so ago, when the Arts Block’s home page was replaced with one showing photographs of dead Syrian children.

“They were really gross pictures you wouldn’t want to look at,” said Wierzbowski, who had his site repaired in a few hours and says he didn’t bother to look into who was responsible.

Then last week, he said, the site was attacked by the group Anonymous, with a message listing a series of principles the group rejects politically and the apology, “We’re sorry we hacked your website,” all accompanied by what Wierzbowski called “doomsday music.”

“Like it’s a big joke to them,” said Wierzbowski, blaming the two more recent incidents on Indonesian hackers.

If there’s a silver lining on the hacked cloud, it’s that Wierzbowski has switched his web host from the giant site Hostmaster.com to Yes Exactly Web Design, a local firm that’s a tenant in the Arts Block building.

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