Hello, “Ground Control” to “Redbird!”

For the sake of clearing up any nervous questions out there, “Redbird” is the name of the St. Louis Cardinals computer network; “Ground Control” is the name of the Houston Astros computer network. Baseball has become well established in the cyber world. In fact, this post could signal the launch of a new MLB Sports Trivia Game: “Name that Network,” or maybe: “Who’s Your Hacky?”

Computer HackYesterday we heard the news that the Cardinals “staff” (allegedly) hacked into the Astros database. Why? It looks like spite. It (allegedly) looks like Millennial-intern (I took a course in computer science) spite, but that’s a matter we’ll get to later.

We’re aware of the allegation

In an article by Nina Mandell for USA TODAY (June 16, 2015) entitled: “The FBI is investigating the Cardinals for hacking the Astros,” we learn that:

“Front office officials for the St. Louis Cardinals are being investigated by the FBI and Justice Department for hacking into the networks of the Houston Astros that stored information including internal discussions about trades, statistics and more…Law enforcement officials believe the hacking was executed by vengeful front-office employees for the Cardinals hoping to wreak havoc on the work of Jeff Luhnow, the Astros’ general manager who had been a successful and polarizing executive with the Cardinals until 2011.”

Well now, the Astros and Cardinals and Major League Baseball say they are aware of the allegation and the ensuing investigation, and no one is “commenting further” to allow the legal process to unfold.

We would like to offer our personal and our “in our honest opinion” of what the statement (“We’re aware”) means to the different parties:

The Cardinals are aware: “We thought it would be funny; like towel snapping or shave cream or that hot stuff smeared on a jock strap. We didn’t know it was against the law when one multi-billion dollar corporation hacks into another and then posts its confidential information online. We’re desperately looking for the intern we can blame this on.”

The Astros were aware: “We caught the SOB’s with their pants down. Jeff would like to comment, but he’s laughing so hard we had to give him a tranquilizer.”

MLB is aware: “We were unprepared for anything like this. After all, in the history of our sport, no team has ever spied on another and who the heck ever bothers to teach ethics anyway?”

The intrusion does not appear to be sophisticated

That’s the comment from the FBI.

Of course it’s not sophisticated. What did you think, that this was the lunchroom of Google hacking into the lunchroom of Apple Computer?

Apparently, the hack was successful because “Ground Control” might have used the same or similar passwords that were used by their executives when they were at “Redbird.” I believe my neighbor’s kid, a pretty darn good T-ball hitter knows to change passwords with regularity.

This leads us to turn the conversation from jovial to serious, although it’s real tempting to join the Twitter crowd and start to come up with unique team passwords of our own.

First of all, we aren’t putting the same spin on this minor scandal that other commentators are attempting. We’ve heard “it’s only sports,” and “the FBI has more important things to do” type comments. We sharply disagree. For example, IF Google were to hack Apple you had better believe it would be serious, so why should sports be any different? If a major brokerage were to hack the SEC, or if an auto maker in China were to hack into General Motors, why wouldn’t the FBI be involved?

Part of what we teach at Sports Ethics is that poor choices lead to bad consequences. Sports Ethics is about making good, on the field and off the field decisions. Where did anyone (allegedly) in the Cardinal’s organization really think this little prank could potentially lead?

An executive from one company (the Cardinals) leaves for another (the Astros) – and apparently with bitter feelings between both parties. Deal with it; it happens every day of the week. The executive takes some co-workers with him and even (allegedly) steals the database program. This so enrages someone in the “aggrieved” organization (the Redbirds), they not only hack into the executive’s “new” team, they allegedly post some of the juicy hacked stuff online.

The hacked company goes to the FBI. It probably took the FBI all of three minutes to discover the ISP addresses hacking at the Astros belonged to the Cardinals and not to an evil empire operating out Bora Bora or Buffalo.

This brings us back to whoever they’re about to throw under a team bus. Someone in the Cardinal’s organization either implicitly or directly authorized this. That means this unethical and ill-advised move was permitted. Who permitted it? Who gave the unwritten wink?

I can understand the anger and the frustration. Take them to court if it bothers you so much; don’t hack their system. It’s unethical. It’s a bad decision.

Here is another idea: both teams are doing well this season and amazingly, there’s the chance they could meet up in the World Series. St. Louis, you want your revenge? Beat them.

Oh yes. Though it may sound self-serving, every party involved needs sports ethics training and for different reasons, starting with the guy who is about to shove the intern or some other sap out of the door to cover for his or her mistake.

 

 

 

 

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