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Amazon hacked: 'Booby Brown' as hot new author

  1. Apr 3, 2017 #1
    (Mods: Please move to 'general discussion' if more appropriate.)

    I went to order a book this morning on Amazon. The hardcover was a bit pricey so I clicked on "paperback" and suddenly the author's name had changed . . . to "Booby Brown." Given the book was serious non-fiction this seemed a startling choice of pseudonym, if indeed that was what it was. I decided to do a search inside Amazon for "Booby Brown" . . . and got back a 20-page list: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=a9_asc...n&keywords=booby+brown&ie=UTF8&qid=1491252106

    So essentially a wide range of authors had their name changed to Booby - generally only for one of the formats listed for a book, not all formats. Those affected include J.K. Rowling, Ann Patchett, Harper Lee, James Patterson, Angela Duckworth, Orhan Pamuk, George Orwell, Andrea Wulf, etc. No immediately obvious pattern.

    Amazon may have recovered by the time you read this, so here's a screen cap from 4:46 p.m. EST; note the first hit is actually for "Bobby Brown," a real author; it's all Boobies after that.


    A web search didn't find any news, so I went to Twitter & found out someone had tweeted Amazon help, who confirmed it's a situation that has been escalated:


    One relevant result of this: I canceled my book order, got out of Amazon, and went & ordered an antivirus program/malware for the Macs at our house. I've read before in this forum that AV for OS X is a good idea, and I did consider it a couple of years ago but passed. Not any more. "Booby Brown" isn't aimed at home users, but this is just the last straw - this, and the takeover of devices of all sorts for server attacks. Program I got is Bitdefender, gets good reviews.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 3, 2017 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Wow! The rainforests are doomed.

    Could have been a late April Fools joke?

    Can't wait to see if it appears on the news or he who must not be named's twitter feed.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2017
  4. Apr 3, 2017 #3
    Right now when I Google for "Booby Brown" I get lots and lots of Amazon book hits; lots of hits about brown boobies, a type of bird; and no news hits at all about the hack.

    I also get a few hits like these - http://www.dallasweekly.com/arts_and_entertainment/image_a225598e-58c4-11e1-9c70-001a4bcf6878.html - but I'm so out of the pop/entertainment/glamour scene that I wouldn't know if "Booby" is a well-known unfriendly nickname for this particular Mr. Brown or just a typo.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  5. Apr 3, 2017 #4


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    My search just now say there are over 4,000 books on Amazon with that author.


    Oh. I see that's the same number as shown in post #1
  6. Apr 20, 2017 #5
    Seventeen days later, they're down to 4,370.

  7. Apr 20, 2017 #6


    Staff: Mentor

    So did somebody hack amazon or is this an extended amazon joke?
  8. Apr 20, 2017 #7


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    Very hard to see how it could be there on purpose since you can actually BUY the stuff that's listed under that name, and that means that Amazon is offering to sell stuff they cannot possibly deliver.
  9. Apr 20, 2017 #8


    Staff: Mentor

    I sent a note to a friend who works there about it. I'll post here when I get a response back.

    It could well be some programmer test code that somehow got into the operational system. Perhaps testing a function to take books out of the Amazon lists by altering the author. We used to do i18n testing by using the Martian dialect of English i.e. Adding an m to every word in our messages file. Then by scanning the output you could see what text didn't make it to the messages file before we sent that file to language translation.
  10. Apr 21, 2017 #9


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    I sent an email to their business dept telling them they'd been hacked and I got back a form reply that started off

    and went on from there. Utterly idiotic.
  11. Apr 23, 2017 #10


    Staff: Mentor

    This is what I got back:

  12. Apr 24, 2017 #11
    Something has changed, but I wouldn't say it was fixed. Previously, searching without quotes for "Booby Brown" got hits, whereas now it gets none. So probably that is how your friend searched and why he got no hits. However, when I searched just now with quotes, I got roughly the same number of hits as before - in fact, 1 more hit than @rkolter's search of this past Thursday:


    Looks like the new entry is a baby book, appearing above that old favorite from previous searches, "Daring Greatly":

    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
  13. Apr 24, 2017 #12


    Staff: Mentor

    Anyway, now we know its not an April Fool's jke from Amazon but more likely an issue with how folks add new entries to the Amazon catalog. Most likely the vendors are using some sort of automation tool to add their stock to the Amazon catalog and it may be the source of the issue.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2017
  14. Apr 24, 2017 #13


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    Yeah, I get pretty much the same thing. You don't have to use quotes, you just have to be insistent:


    EDIT: Oh ... I see you sort of do have to use quotes. *I* didn't use quotes but when I was insistent, it inserted the quotes for me.
  15. Apr 24, 2017 #14
    This is still a problem. Sad, given that the first report on PF was April 3 and today is April 24.

    On this page we see that there are some Booby Brown listings.


    I clicked on A Man Called Ove.


    On the book's link it says the author is Fredrik Backman, which matches the cover. But Booby Brown is listed as the author.

    Clicking on Booby Brown takes us to 1-12 of 4,330 results for Books : "Booby Brown".


    It looks like one of the Harry Potter books is authored by Booby Brown.


    I didn't try adding it to my cart. Doesn't seem prudent somehow.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  16. May 2, 2017 #15
    It's still there, leads me to believe that "booby brown" is a different collection of the same selected books.

    When you click on the item you get the correct author, but a completely different list of purchaseable used items from that as if you searched the book by its correct author.

    Perhaps someone is just scamming on Amazon to pick-up their sales and can't put down the correct author or they would just be considered the same collection and have to compete with those other items for sale?

    To further my hypothesis, the sellers of each version of the same book are totally different between the two groups.

    So you have the author: booby brown group.
    And the author: david day group.

    I tested this with the Atlas of JRR Tolkein book.

    Anyway, so based on this I strongly lean toward some "search engine optimization" going on, where one group puts in the fake author of Booby Brown betting more people will search by title and B is before D so they will be listed first.

    I give up, the titles aren't even the same.

    I'm at a loss, it's just erroneous throughout.
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