A couple of weeks ago it was announced that Dave Surber, creator of the WildWinds coin database, passed away. WildWinds is one of the best-known websites among both ancient coin collectors and numismatic scholars. In addition to being a reference for attribution and price research for collectors, it is widely used by scholars as well since it records so many unique and variant types.
In the wake of the tragic news of Mr. Surber's untimely death, several numismatic discussion lists have now reported that WildWinds has been maliciously hacked. It is terrible that someone would deliberately destroy another's hard and significant work - a deed made all the more terrible on account of its timing. It seems that the section on Greek coins suffered the most while some pages on Roman imperial and provincial coins also were deleted. One individual estimated that about 30% of the WildWinds database had been damaged.
Shortly after Surber's death, there were vague indications that an effort was underway to maintain the WildWinds database and I hope that those who take on this task will be able to restore the lost information. It seems that some of the lost pages are still present in the Google cache and so, hopefully, these will be saved and reintegrated into the website before they are purged from the Google cache (things do not stay in Google cache forever).
It is hard to imagine why anyone would attack a site like this. There is abundant speculation in the online discussion groups, but many seem to think it may have been an attack carried out by a forger or by someone who was resentful of the fact that the site is used for price research. But again, no facts appear to be known yet as to the identity or motivation of the hacker. I would hope that the situation has been referred to law enforcement authorities who perhaps can track them down and hold them accountable.
Anyone with any specific information on efforts to restore the WildWinds database or with any information as to any action being taken against the hacker are welcome to post comments.