Tuesday, June 09, 2009

More on the hacking of the NAC website

Our hosting provider SiteGround confirmed in writing on 7 May that the NAC website we launched on 4 February – sponsored by Prof. James Fetzer, an Honorary Associate of NAC – “has been hacked” (see blog of 9 May “SiteGround confirms our website has been hacked”). Now we have discovered that more pages have been jammed: “Muslim cleric who says multiculturalism is a disaster” and “The Vatican’s Immoral Declaration” are just a couple of examples.

Undoubtedly we have bad luck with our websites: the original NAC website was suspended due to a Spamcop report that was drawn up the day after the Home Office denied that a warrant had been issued to intercept Declan’s communications (see here); and the new NAC website was removed within days by another free web host without explanation (see here).

This morning, while browsing a copy of .net magazine in the local WH Smith store, I read an article titled “Is your hosting provider secure?” with great interest. It says that “even the most secure system can be breached, but it’s how your host responds to an attack that is important”. Well, this is news to me! SiteGround, based in New York, has been rated the best web hosting company for 2007 and 2008, and yet the organised hacker attacks that have been used to scramble or jam online content on the NAC website since late April have never been cleaned up.

The .net article also says that PHP applications in particular are prone to exploitation and that consumers should ensure they keep their installed applications up to date; which is fine by me, except that I am not using PHP and I use plain html, not installed applications. In fact, it’s the same website – with old articles removed – that was hosted free by Bravenet for almost three and a half years (October 2004 to March 2008”), and without a hitch.

Anyway, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if one of these mornings we access the internet only to find that our site has been finally blocked by Firefox or Google with a nasty red warning about the site being a “Reported Attack Site!”.

A bit of research on censorship and I find an article by AlterNet dated 19 February 2008, “Whistleblower Website Under Attack”. According to AlterNet, one of the most important websites in the preceding months was Wikileaks.org. Created by several brave journalists committed to transparency, Wikileaks had published important leaked documents, upsetting among others the Chinese government. “Now censorship has extended to the United States of America, land of the First Amendment,” said Alternet, adding: “As of Friday, February 15, those going to Wikileaks.org have gotten ‘Server not found’ messages.” Apparently, a California court had granted an injunction written and requested by lawyers for the Cayman Island’s Bank Julius Baer. AlterNet: “If this injunction stands, it will set an incredible precedent for all of us who use the web to unveil misbehavior by the rich and powerful.”

Clearly not everyone supported the judge’s decision: Wikileaks was one of the winners at the 8th annual Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards held in London in April 2008.