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Some initial thoughts about the Astros’ security breach

Jun 30, 2014, 4:34 PM EDT

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Some random observations about the Houston Astros getting hacked:

Several people on Twitter brought up the notion that Deadspin (and then us and everyone else who followed-on) publicizing this hack sends some sort of bad signal or represents some sort of moral hazard or something given that the underling information was proprietary.

Sorry, not buying it.

The hack itself was wrong and probably illegal. The information itself is newsworthy. It’s far, far, far (x1000) less important than, say, the BALCO grand jury testimony being leaked, but it’s still stuff — based on people’s gobbling up of any and all info related to trade rumors and the hot stove season — that people want to know. The existence of an audience for this stuff has long been a given. Indeed, a good chunk of all the sports media industry is based on obtaining the inside scoop for fans hungry for any and all of the dirt. The Astros’ information being spread around today doesn’t change the existing incentive structure. It still requires someone to go out and break the law to get it in this manner. Thus far, people’s priorities — however whack they may sometimes be — have been reasonable enough that we’re content to wait for Heyman or Rosenthal to get the dirt via a telephone call than for someone to go all Mission: Impossible on teams’ networks.

Some other people are suggesting that the Astros may pay a price in their dealings with potential trade partners now that they have allowed their communications to be compromised. Eh, not buying that either. Every team has similar internal discussions about trades. That the Astros said X or Y after a phone call with the Red Sox and then ended up doing Z with the Orioles is just part of the business. The only way this is a problem for Houston is if this is seen as some sort of chronic, unsolvable breach. Which I’m guessing it’s not. The system itself has a futuristically advanced sounding name — Ground Control — but it’s just a notes database as far as most of us are concerned. It would probably take a very, very short time for the Astros to shore up security, assuming they haven’t already. Which probably isn’t a safe assumption.

But seriously, Astros:

Finally, I’ll start the odds on “grouchy anti-sabermetric columnist penning a column in the next week in which he crows something like ‘the Astros live by the new-fangled computery stats, they die by the new-fangled computery stats!” at 3-1. Any reference to this never happening if Ed Wade still ran the team — you can’t hack the back of a cocktail napkin, after all! — puts it at 4-1.

All in all: I think this is a story that will, going forward, be about who broke into the Astros’ system and what happens to them. Not one about general ethics, the Astros’ organizational philosophies or computer data at large. At least it shouldn’t be. And I hope it isn’t.

  1. SocraticGadfly - Jun 30, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    Dear Astros:

    Use #Batflip as your new password.

    Because nobody in Houston will ever be looking for it. :)

    • Bob - Jun 30, 2014 at 5:08 PM

      Astros just took two out of three from Detroit, are tied for fourth in AL in home runs and George Springer is tied for a spot in the top 10 in homers. Try harder next time.

    • jsala02 - Jun 30, 2014 at 5:09 PM

      George Springer will argue with you on that

  2. paperlions - Jun 30, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    The deadspin story doesn’t actually say that the site was hacked. It just says that the information was posted on a site where hacked or LEAKED information is shared. Based on the lack of information provided, it seems like it is just as likely that a pissed off current or former employee leaked information as it is that the database was hacked.

    • uwsptke - Jun 30, 2014 at 5:12 PM

      That’s what I was thinking (leaked internally, not “hacked”). It could be anyone from an intern to maybe a recently dismissed scout who still had security access. I would assume you need to have some sort of internal knowledge of this system to pull it off.

      • mikhelb - Jun 30, 2014 at 5:15 PM

        You just need access to Ground Control and that is it, it was designed so everybody had info at their fingertips to avoid other cases like the one involving Apple in their multiple collusion cases where they needed everybody to know who was involved in the collusion so they could know what to do and what to say to different companies.

  3. mikhelb - Jun 30, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    There are errors in the dates of the leaked notes (with messages supposedly interchanged in october 2014 while clearly those are from 2013).

    “”11/15/2014″,” COL told JL that they are listening on Fowler.”

    I for one do not think it was a hack but somebody copied internal memos and pasted ’em to the net: if they were not wise enough, a simple revision of the terminals were pastebin was accesed could give them the culprit if they used the internal WiFi. If they used their cellphone’s internet they can do something alleging industrial spionage.

    • mikhelb - Jun 30, 2014 at 5:25 PM

      *anonbin, not pastebin.

  4. vanmorrissey - Jun 30, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    Agree with you, Craig. This stuff sounds exactly what you would think goes on with every team throughout the year, nothing groundbreaking. Just the fact there could have possibly been something more sensitive would leave anyone to believe that all MLB teams will review their security both cyber and physical when it comes to any piece of equipment carrying data. Just a given.

  5. Francisco (FC) - Jun 30, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    Ah Spaceballs…

  6. jwbiii - Jun 30, 2014 at 5:55 PM

    I’ve done a bit of hacking, for amusement, not for profit. It’s immoral and unethical. The only thing I got out of it was that the young lady flirting with me at the coffee machine might have been the “right now girl” but not the “right girl,”after reading her e-mails. The White House has the same security system. . .

  7. chiadam - Jun 30, 2014 at 9:11 PM

    I still don’t see the big deal. Companies get hacked. It happens. What part should outrage and offend me? Trade scenarios that they discussed with other teams? GMs discuss every player on the roster in numerous scenarios every day. At least the good ones do. I get that some people live to find another crisis to be shocked over, but it’s a miserable way to exist.

  8. thisdamnbox - Jul 1, 2014 at 2:38 AM

    Disagree, Craig. Spreading proprietary info, even if you weren’t the one who stole or leaked it is akin to trafficking in stolen merchandise. You know it’s stolen, but dammit, that TV would look great in your livingroom!

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