Attacks on Unitarian Bahai sites?

It appears that someone is using hacking techniques to suppress the expression of Unitarian Bahaism on the internet.

A few hours ago, it was reported that the Unitarian Universalist Bahai blog’s web address was somehow redirected to a Universalist Christian web page made by Eric Stetson, who also leads the Unitarian Bahai movement:

http://www.uubahai.com/

Now I have learned that the Yahoo group of Unitarian Bahais has also been cut off:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/unitarian-bahai/

No coincidence, I suppose, that this was done the day after Eric Stetson said he was taking a break from moderating that group.

Why is this happening? This page will be updated as more information comes in.

UPDATE 1  (April 25, 2010, 10:23 PM) : The Unitarian Bahai Yahoo group is visible once more. It seems the disruption affected ALL Yahoo groups, and could thus have been something not specifically targeting that group. A denial of service attack on Yahoo.com in general?

UPDATE 2  (April 26, 2010, 11:41 PM): Eric Stetson has noted what happened with this message:

Dear Friends,

UUBahai.com has been hacked and replaced with a website promoting my book on
Christian Universalism. I am going to contact the hosting company and tell them
about the hack and ask them how it can be fixed and if any of the content that
was on the UU Bahai Blog can be restored or if all of it has been permanently
deleted by the hacker.

It appears that somebody out there with a lot of computer ability — and a
willingness to break the law — wants to hurt the Unitarian Bahai cause. Very
sad.

Eric S.

Update 3 (April 27, 2010, 4:51 PM): Another message from Eric:

Dear Friends,

The past two days, I have been communicating with my web hosting company both by email and phone, several times, trying to get a straight answer about what happened to uubahai.com and how and when it can be fixed. The company doesn’t seem to want to explain in any detail WHY the problem occurred or WHEN things will be back to normal; all they will say is that they had a problem with a hard drive and some data was missing as a result. If they know or suspect it was hacking, probably they don’t want to admit that, for fear of losing business.

Here is what I did find out:

1. The hard drive that was hosting uubahai.com was shut down, and they had to switch their server to a backup drive, which was supposed to have a backup of all data. However, some data went missing. They don’t know why some data was missing and other data was not.

2. The specific files that went missing from uubahai.com were the ones that enable the WordPress blog to run.

3. Fortunately, the database of the blog (i.e. its stored content) was not affected.

4. Somehow uubahai.com was set to run the content from christian-universalism.com, another website that the same hosting company hosts for me.

5. Even when I manually restored the missing WordPress files, which should have enabled the UU Bahai blog to start running again, uubahai.com still was displaying the contents of christian-universalism.com.

6. So far, despite my repeated requests, the tech support staff of the hosting company has not restored uubahai.com to be able to run its own content instead of christian-universalism.com. They were not willing to give me an estimated
time when it will be restored.

7. I run two other websites besides uubahai.com on the same server at this web hosting company. Neither of them have been affected at all.

8. I asked if any of their other customers have been affected and in what way. They told me that some people have had problems accessing their email, or lost some email, when they had to switch to a backup hard drive for the server (the same thing also happened to me). No mention was made of anyone else experiencing the kind of problem that happened to uubahai.com.

I suspect that this could be a case of hacking which may have caused the company to automatically shut down and reformat the hard drive of one of their servers, switch to a backup, and lose some data in the process. I can’t prove that, but it seems to be a likely explanation.

It is very suspicious that the uubahai.com website lost files needed to run the blog literally the day after I told everyone on this mailing list that I was on vacation and unable to access the internet regularly. It is also very suspicious that three days later, the web hosting company still has not restored uubahai.com to functionality, despite the fact that I manually uploaded the missing files necessary for the blog to work again. I have to wonder whether they have frozen uubahai.com because of a security breach that they might be investigating. It is extremely unusual for a large and reputable web hosting company, as this one is, to allow somebody’s website to be continuously down or
frozen for three consecutive days. All of these things raise huge red flags in my mind.

In any case, the data that was on the site can be restored, because I don’t think the database of the blog has been affected (though I haven’t looked at it carefully, but it seems okay at first glance); and even if some data in the database turns out to be missing, the blog articles were still in Google cache and both Dale and I have saved them.

Eric S.

Update 4 (April 27, 2010, 5:29 PM) : Eric reports further on his progress:

An admin at the web hosting company has finally unfrozen the domain, so now
uubahai.com displays its real content (at least the front page). However,
unfortunately, the database of the blog HAS been corrupted. The links to the
articles do not work, and some important files are missing from the database —
including the file that enables the admin (me) to log in to do anything on the
blog!

Therefore, the entire blog will need to be reinstalled. I may be able to import
some of the data from the old database into the new installation of the blog,
but I don’t know how to do that so I’ll have to study up on it. One possibility
would be to just start over from scratch with a clear database and re-post all
the articles and comments that had been previously posted, rather than messing
around with two different databases. I suspect this is the easier option, but
I’ll have to see.

Either way, it’ll be a lot of work to get the blog back up and running in a
truly functional way. I probably won’t get to it until this weekend.

Eric S.

(Final update: May 1, 11:54 PM): Dear Friends,

After being either completely or partially down for about a week, the Unitarian
Universalist Bahai Blog (
http://www.uubahai.com) is back up and running again.
I have restored the missing files and cleaned up the database that had been
corrupted. The permalinks and RSS feed work again now.

The only thing I couldn’t restore is subscribers to the blog. If you subscribed
to the feed, your subscription has been lost and you will need to resubscribe.

The web hosting company did not give me a clear explanation of why data was lost
in this account. Therefore, I do not know whether the blog was hacked or
whether the hosting company lost data due to incompetence/negligence. Either
way, I hope it will not happen again!

Eric S.

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2 thoughts on “Attacks on Unitarian Bahai sites?

  1. This hacking would have been done by the Bahai Internet Agency which by our estimates employs on an ad hoc basis virtually 2/3 of the Haifan Bahai population with internet access:
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Baha%E2%80%99i_Internet_Agency

    From late 2002 to the mid part of 2009 I myself was incessantly a target of hacking by this outfit. This agency committed identity theft against my person repeatedly, hacked into several of my web based emails, including those of my friends.

    What should be understood is that since hacking and surveillance technology these days is much easier to come by than ever (for example, if you own a Nokia cell phone expect that you are being listened to, if not by governments, then definitely by private corporate firms and entities), the Bahai establishment will (and has) employed such methods against ideological adversaries. In fact it should be expected. As such due to the innate paranoid temperament of this organization, they will stoop to just about any kind of criminal activity on and off line if they can get away with it. I have first-hand experience with these people for seven straight years.

    FYI

    • Thank you, Azal. Why the hell would the Haifan Baha’is need an “Internet Agency”? That sounds like something the Chinese government would create to police THEIR internet activities. Disgusting!

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