By Michael Bartlett, Newsbytes
21 Aug 2000, 1:10 PM CST

FreeWebStuff.Com, Inc., the "get-paid-to-surf" Internet company that
became so infiltrated by hackers it was forced to take its site down
on July 10, may be offline permanently.

[So infiltrated by 'hackers'? Or so infiltrated by criminals using
computers? Is it really so difficult to make a distinction?

Use such sweeping statements about 'journalists' and most of them will get
all upset and cry like they have a skinned knee, yet they do it to
'hackers' on a daily basis.]

"We would love to relaunch the site, if we had a partner to bring in
security or to help share the risk," said
spokesperson Bill Johnson. "But as of this weekend, the company made
the decision to pull out and try to sell the domain name."

As previously reported by Newsbytes, after nine months of development,
the FreeWebStuff Web site was launched on June 5. One month later, the
company discovered that 90 percent of its 65,000 sign-ups were bogus.

"We could catch fake sign-ups when there were just a few per day by
running various tests," explained Johnson. "But we started getting
thousands of fakes a day - one day we had 4,500 in a 24-hour period
and that just overwhelmed us."

Johnson said that did not check identity at the time
of sign-up, and that left a loophole that allowed individuals bent on
fraud to create multiple identities. Johnson suspects one person might
have had up to 2,000 identities.

After the rampant cheating was discovered, the company tried different
means to plug the holes in its security walls. "We offered an amnesty
program," said Johnson. "When we discovered people that were
defrauding us, we contacted them and told them if they gave us
information, we would not turn them over for prosecution by the
federal government." also attempted to fight back by hiring three hackers
as security consultants, but ultimately, the company decided it could
not trust the hackers in the long run.

[This is a nice vague statement. Three hackers as security consultants? And
then they couldn't trust them? Gee, not familiar with the basics of hiring
or something? Any company that reacts like this without thinking or
putting in mechanisms to protect their investments probably shouldn't be
doing business. I think we're all familiar with good hiring practices,  
weeding out those who overstate their qualifications, etc.]

"The good news is, we realized early on that there was an
insurmountable problem," Johnson said. "We did not want fake growth.
We were not going to tell our investors that we had 65,000 subscribers
when we knew the number was not real. We have integrity."

[The REAL good news is, less spam. I don't know about you, but I was
spammed on a near daily basis with "get paid to surf" crap.]

The company is now looking to sell the domain name to
allow it to recoup part of its investment. According to Johnson, there
is no current asking price, but all offers are being considered.

More information on can be found at .