Online Mischief Makers

By Liane Bonin
Updated August 21, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Plastic vomit is so over. These days merry pranksters are plying their shtick on the World Wide Web, and entertainment sites are ripe for the hacking. Spice Girls fans were treated last November to a bald and cross-eyed prefab five on their official site (; in January Mick Jagger was slapped with wrinkles and male-pattern baldness at; and Leonardo DiCaprio recently — and briefly — became extremely well endowed at his official site (

Celebrity-focused websites make easy marks, thanks to a combination of lax security, adolescent boredom, and luck. ”Thirty websites are hacked every day, and that’s on the low end, because it’s just so easy,” says ”Bob,” a longtime ”good hacker” who dismisses such pranks as the lowbrow terrain of ”little hotdogger kids.” To prove his point, he hacked into the ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY website as he spoke (but left it untouched).

Industry reaction ranges from good-natured indifference to denial. ”Any publicity is good publicity,” figures Courtney Holt, senior director of new media at A&M Records, who notes that a pranked page can be whipped off the Web and replaced in seconds. For now, that’s the only option, since prosecuting is difficult. ”It’s frustrating,” says DiCaprio publicist Cindy Guagenti, ”but I guess the laws just have to be changed, don’t they?” To which Bob replies, ominously, ”Legislation hasn’t stopped anyone yet.”