Let’s set some records straight, here. First off, “hacker” is quite a misnomer here. I am the “hacker” you’re referring to. My license number is ALANAMY, and it is a gold Saturn. I’m not quite sure what you intend to do with this valuable information – turn me in to the Internet Police?
Anyway, I learned about this contest through the Post-Gazette’s Sunday edition and I visited the web site on Monday and signed up. It sounded very exciting! It has been a lousy summer to say the least – my wife is recovering from some pretty scary surgery from last week, and countless other things have gone wrong this year, so the prospects of a dream vacation sounded alluring.
When I looked through some of the previous treasure hunts, I viewed the maps to study what types of areas they were hiding the caches. I am a web designer, and I am therefore quite Internet savvy. As a curiosity, I right-clicked on the map, and saw the web address of the map image. It ended with an id number (id=x). I noticed that the individual challenges also had ID numbers associated with them.
With this “amazing hacking knowledge,” I tried typing the web address of the image, but substituted the ID for the current Pittsburgh cache. I was extremely surprised to find that the alleged map for the site appeared when I did this. I was not “hacking” the site per se; this wasn’t exactly a Pentagon-level thing. Anyone with a reasonable knowledge of the web could have figured this out, and I did so in less than 5 minutes. I can assure you that Magellan was quite lax in allowing the maps to be found this easily. This glitch was cleared up later in the week, and it is no longer possible to use this method.
So I was faced with a dilemma. Yes, I knew I wasn’t “supposed” to have this map. But I also knew that with it being so easy to find, others would soon have it as well. And I have heard of at least half a dozen other people who DID have them ahead of time, including some folks I met today. If I wasn’t going to use this knowledge to my advantage, SOMEBODY ELSE WILL.
Do you really believe that some of these other treasures – like Houston -- have been found by people before the coordinates were posted, just because they “stumbled on them?” I doubt that very, very highly. I promise you they had the maps, and their maps were accurate. The map that I found for the Denver contest was accurate, for example.
So on Tuesday I did indeed drive to the coordinates, and as we all know, they led to a private residence. It was not obvious that this was a residence until you got clear up to the house. The driveway is long and could easily pass as a back road.
I encountered the older woman who lived there, and asked her if she knew about the cache. She was vague with me, denied knowing anything about it, and suggested I return in 45 minutes.
So I figured that this meant either she had some additional information she would share with me, OR she was going to have a police officer waiting for me.
I IMMEDIATELY drove from her house to the nearest police station, the North Fayette Township police station. I explained to them exactly what was going on, and I learned that she did indeed call them after my surprise visit. I gave them a copy of the map, and I told them that since I came upon this map, I could almost guarantee them that this would be a recurring problem for these people as the week went along. I did everything I could to do the right thing here. I commend the woman for calling the police, especially since our area has been the target of numerous home invasions – usually against the elderly – in recent months.
Of course, I still had the map, and I figured that the treasure was probably in Settler’s Cabins, and the third hint all but confirmed that. I spent a portion of the past few days looking for the cache at the park with no luck. Like many people, I had my wife hitting “reload” at home this morning in anticipation of the new coordinates being posted. When she read them to me, I knew that it was going to be a fiasco at this couples’ home, and I even warned another couple at the park that it would be wise to stay at Settler’s Cabins.
And here we all are – almost 11 hours later and we’re all in the dark thanks to this goof.
The moral to the story is that Magellan is the culprit here. They made it extremely easy to find the maps, and that was their fault. I see many people here calling me a hacker as though I dug into their internal network, or I have my own personal satellite surveillance system or something. I would bet that 90% of the people criticizing me for using this information to my advantage would have done the same thing if they had found it, although they’re certainly not about to admit that here.
Magellan is also the culprit in that they have been extremely sloppy throughout the run of this contest. They obviously haven’t double-checked their work, and they have barely been monitoring the contests as the coordinates have been posted. I really would have loved to have won one of their GPS devices, but if their own people can’t manage to mark a waypoint, I don’t know that I can trust them.
I have not lied to anyone I met along the way today, nor have I been dishonest. And, Leprechauns, my wife never told me to “be quiet,” so let’s not go overboard on your story here. You could hear my cell phone conversation…?
Whatever you’re planning to do with all of this “other information” you gathered about me… well, knock yourself out. I’d focus my efforts on the folks that really botched this. Feel free to flame me, condemn me to hell, or whatever it is geocaching people tend to do to “hackers.”
I wish you all well with the hunt… I can promise you that my enthusiasm for this, and geocaching in general, has been squashed to nil, and I will not be seeking the treasure when the new coordinates are released.