January 18th, 2021

Scotiabank Giller Prize organizers say virtual book event disrupted by ‘hacker’


By The Canadian Press on January 5, 2021.

Toronto-based writer Souvankham Thammavongsa and Giller Prize winner is shown in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Sarah Bodri, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

TORONTO – Organizers of the Scotiabank Giller Prize are investigating security measures for future virtual events after they say an interview with winner Souvankham Thammavongsa was disrupted by “a hacker.”

The Giller Foundation says Monday’s event, also featuring past winner Madeleine Thien, was held over the videoconferencing platform Zoom, with the login details posted to the Giller website and Facebook page.

Submissions and marketing manager Daphna Rabinovitch says more than 175 viewers were online and muted when the call was interrupted within minutes by a screeching noise and offensive images.

She was forced to shut down the event but says she hopes to reschedule it for next week with “much-enhanced security protocols.”

Rabinovitch says organizers chose to make the interview easily accessible to the public so that anyone could tune in.

She says she’d like to assure people the next event will be secure, but still be as inclusive as possible.

“Unfortunately, we got badly hacked,” Rabinovitch said Tuesday, describing an “abysmal” sound akin to a lawn mower, as well as multiple photos of male genitalia.

“In an attempt to be as inclusive as possible, we were run over.”

In November, Thammavongsa won the $100,000 book prize for her McClelland & Stewart short story collection, “How To Pronounce Knife,” which chronicles the immigrant experience.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2021.

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