Forbes Smokes Out Fake New Republic Story on Hackers

Adam L. Penenberg, 05.11.98

FORBES DIGITAL TOOL UNEARTHED A COMPLETELY FABRICATED story in The New Republic about teenage hackers extorting money from corporations.

The story, “Hack Heaven,” by Associate Editor Stephen Glass, tells how Ian Restil, a 15-year-old computer hacker, broke into the databases of a “big-time software firm,” Jukt Micronics, and then demanded money, porn magazines and a sports car from the company.

The colorful story, which was published in the May 18 issue, also described how hackers were even hiring agents to broker lucrative deals while government agencies sat on the sidelines, powerless.

Glass further alleged that in Nevada, frustrated police officials arranged for a radio campaign to discourage companies from hiring hackers.

After investigating the claims made in the story, Forbes Digital Tool could not find any trace of the characters or companies or governmental agencies mentioned.

On Friday, May 8, Forbes presented its full findings to Charles Lane, the editor of The New Republic, who at that time was unaware of any questions regarding the story. Lane then conducted his own investigations as Forbes was going to press.

On Sunday, May 10, Lane issued a press release announcing that he had fired Associate Editor Stephen Glass. Lane admitted that the story “contained fabricated characters and situations.”

The New Republic took these steps only after Forbes Digital Tool informed the magazine that it was going to publish a story that proved “Hack Heaven” was a sham from top to bottom. “Your inquiries triggered my inquiry,” Lane told Forbes.

According to Lane, Glass enlisted the aid of his brother and used the latter’s cell phone as the phone number for “Jukt Micronics.” In addition, Glass concocted a fake corporate site for “Jukt Micronics” on America Online, as well as phony voice and E-mail accounts for all his sources.
Charles Lane admits that there are “serious questions” about other pieces Glass has written for the magazine. “On Saturday morning I confronted Glass in the office and he confessed,” Lane said.

Copyright 1998 Adam L. Penenberg (