Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Hacking and vandalisation of NAC

As I wrote in the previous blog, on 25 April our website was vandalised – the pages were taking an awful long time to load (about 30 seconds per page). I realised that the transferring of data was done through IP, which a Google search reveals is located in ... Latvia! Despite that the NAC website has been twice removed from the internet (see About us), I found this vandalism to the new website (launched 4 February) shocking because the site is sponsored by Distinguished McKnight Professor James Fetzer of the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Prof. Fetzer has bought the domain name and web hosting with SiteGround of New York, rated the best web hosting company for 2007 and 2008. Prof. Fetzer got in contact with SiteGround and received the following from a member of their Support Team:

I have carefully investigated the issue. While browsing the site I found that the site makes queries to the above mentioned IP address I am not aware why the site is asking this address. I have checked the IP address and it appeared to be in Latvia.

The is slow because it waits the IP address to respond to your site. This address responds either very slow or it does not respond at all.

What I would advise you is to disable the script which makes the queries to this IP address. If after that the problem still persist please update the ticket in order to investigate the issue further.

So it seems that the site is hacked and someone has written a script which makes queries to this Latvian IP address. Well, clearly it was not me: firstly, I wouldn’t know how to write such script, and secondly, why would I want the pages of my site transferring data through Latvia? Perhaps more interesting, why would anyone want to hack the website of two people who have been sleeping in the streets of London for over two and a half years? And is the person who wrote this script the same person who, on 26 January 2008, raided Declan’s Google Mail, moved all emails sent to him after 12 August 2007 to Trash, and deleted 300 draft documents, including the names and email addresses of over 2,500 scientists and academics (see blog “Declan’s Google Mail is raided”)?

A few days ago I reposted everything on the site. Yet, two days ago the Stephen Mumford page from the section “Authors” was transferring data through Latvia; and yesterday it was one of our homepage feature articles, “The Whole World Is Watching”. This morning both of these pages were OK – I didn’t do anything to them – but we had an email from the US informing us that another feature article, “The Vatican's Immoral Declaration”, took an excessively long time to load!

According to a report issued in March by Reporters Without Borders, not only is the Internet more and more controlled, but new forms of censorship are emerging based on the manipulation of information. “Orchestrating the posting of comments on popular websites or organising hacker attacks is also used by repressive regimes to scramble or jam online content,” Reporters Without Borders said.

I wonder if the reason why I am still unable to log in to my SiteGround account – due to my username and password not being recognised, and this despite that since launching on 4 February I have been uploading with a program and the same username and password – is because of another hacker attack. It wouldn’t be difficult since all my uploading is done in the local internet café.