by George Karrys
LONDON, Ontario – It’s a baffling cyber crime, and it’s aimed squarely at the presumably harmless sport of curling.
For those online curling addicts who have noticed, four of the sport’s biggest and most important websites – CurlingZone, World Curling Tour, Ontario Curling Tour and Canadian Curling Reporters – have been knocked offline for days. Temporary pages now sit, surrounded by white space, where reams and reams of curling info once scrolled and flickered.
It was early Friday morning when Gerry Geurts, one of the proprietors of said websites, noticed that one of his online databases was missing. Entirely.
What followed was something akin to The Matrix films – or perhaps Monty Python, as Geurts scrambled to track what was happening. Surely this was some kind of nightmare. Surely this couldn’t be happening… to curling websites?!
“I couldn’t believe it,” said a rueful Geurts. “And on my birthday, too. Someone must really have it out for me.”
Geurts, who lives in London, is a classic example of the overworked and underpaid curling enthusiast who has now spent the better part of four days – along with CurlingZone partner Dallas Bittle of Vancouver – wrangling desperately for answers. The pair, who also published three editions of The Black Book of Curling a few years ago, even sought the help of Dan Field, a top U.S. computer industrialist who lends technical support to the online efforts of the U.S. and world curling governing bodies.
“Dan said his U.S. sites had just been attacked from sites originating in China and Korea,” said Geurts. “We’re wondering if these attacks are related, but we don’t know yet.”
The latest news is that database content as young as the 2008-2009 season has been recovered… and that’s the good news. The bad news, which is getting worse, is that Geurts will need to shell out at least U.S. $6,000 to a large U.S.-based data recovery firm if he is to have any hope of recovering the last two years of work – data which includes the critical 2010 Olympic season.
The various website databases, you see, include massive amounts of statistical data from major and minor curling events – much more than mere forums for anonymous online chatting. And secondary backup systems were hit, too.
“We’ve gotta do it,” Geurts said firmly. “CurlingZone has invested too much time and money into our online properties, including our proprietary statistical scoring engine CZIS, to not bite the bullet and spend the cash.”
Geurts said that the affected URLs may disappear completely for a few hours, as the switch is flipped to a new server host location based in Toronto, Canada. And as the online curling world awaits the return of these cool curling web portals, two simple questions remain – who on earth would do such a thing… and why?