News & Politics

NYT Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman Claims Hackers Downloaded Child Porn Onto His Computer

US economist and Nobel-prize of Economy winner Paul Krugman, center, speaks to questions from journalists after his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. (Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP)

Paul Krugman, economist at The New York Times, tweeted (and then deleted) a very strange story on Wednesday claiming that someone had hacked his IP address and was using it to download child porn.

“Well, I’m on the phone with my computer security service and as I understand it, someone compromised my IP address and is using it to download child pornography. I might just be a random target but this might be an attempt to Qanon me.” He continued, “It’s an ugly world out there.”

Hardly anyone believes him. One Twitter user pointed out Microsoft’s answer to users’ concerns: “IP addresses cannot be compromised. It’s just a number that identifies your system on the [typically local] network so that other computers can send responses to its requests…a PC itself can be compromised by malware or other more direct attacks, but this has nothing to do with the IP address itself.”

However, it is possible that the Nobel Prize-winning Boomer really is that bad at technology that he fell for a scam. Tech journalist Mikael Thalen uncovered a Better Business Bureau report that appears to describe the exact phishing attempt Krugman described. Reports the BBB:

In one version of the scam, a pop-up suddenly appears on your computer screen with an ominous warning from a well-known tech support company. The pop-up will ask you to call a number to resolve the issue. When you call, a “technician” will tell you your IP address is being used by shady individuals. In some reports, scammers claim child pornography websites are using your IP address, and you could be held responsible for their actions. In a second version of the scam, you simply receive a call out of the blue from someone making similar claims.

It is entirely possible that Krugman fell for this scam. It is, however, very strange that he would go to Twitter to tell people about it instead of the FBI. If he really believed someone downloaded illegal material on his computer, that’s a job for law enforcement and not the tech team at the NYT, which Krugman said was “on the case,” leading to hilarious responses about “CSI: Boomer” and more.

Since we don’t know what happened here, it seems reasonable that law enforcement should look at his computer just to make sure. Everyone remembers that Anthony Weiner also used the “hacking” defense when he was caught messing with underage girls through his computer. Jared Fogel did the same. Both were convicted of offenses against children.

Over the years I have encountered bad people who have targeted me with what I believed to be illegal material. I didn’t open it, I called the FBI and local police and reported it and followed their instructions. They have protocols for this kind of thing. I did not go to social media and tell the world I thought I had something illegal on my computer. Did the NYT contact the FBI when one of their writers told them he suspected someone had done this to him? It’s a fair question.

 

Megan Fox is the author of “Believe Evidence; The Death of Due Process from Salome to #MeToo.” Follow on Twitter @MeganFoxWriter