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Misplaced trust: hacking, punking and birthers

I was looking at Birther Report this morning, and noticed the article about their acquiring a new server (mentioned by commenters here previously). I and others have expressed some skepticism about the ability of Birther Report to remain secure once it leaves the Google umbrella and goes to a privately-owned server. The particular words from the author Helen Tansey that caught my attention were:

This process includes hiring a trusted programmer who will manage the migration from Blogger to the new server.

I don’t think birthers are very good at knowing whom to trust. Birther Report regularly publishes articles that are nonsense. They use advertising providers who let themselves get hacked, resulting in BR having been a vector for malware.

Of course, the poster child for misplaced trust is probably Orly Taitz who is regularly punked by commenters on her blog, filed no less than two fake birth certificates in court, and allowed malware to be placed on her web site on multiple occasions. Searching for “hacked” on this site returned more hits for Taitz than for any other. Taitz ended up suing her former webmaster (I express no opinion on the merits of that suit). Orly also claims to be hacked when she hasn’t been.

I put Mike Zullo in the number 2 position. While Zullo’s failures are not as transparent as Taitz’, it appears that he’s been fooled many times. He trusted the various birther document forensic volunteers much to his embarrassment. First there was Mara Zebest, who showed basic misunderstanding of technical details, and then Garrett Papit who led the Posse into false declarations about PDF files, the ones debunked by a Xerox machine. One also must at least wonder at the money spent by Zullo on the Reed Hayes report, which is yet to be released. Zullo’s biggest lapse in judgment was when he believed the fake 1961 vital statistics manual and then made it the centerpiece of his 2nd press conference. I should add that the Cold Case Posse web site itself was hacked last December, apparently because they used old software and didn’t apply security patches. They also went down a couple of time when they didn’t pay their bills. Whoever was entrusted with the site didn’t do a responsible job.

Phil Berg’s site was hacked too.

I think most of the birther and anti-birther web sites are hosted by blog providers, either Google Blogger™ or WordPress.com. These will shield their users from most forms of hacking except for third-party advertising that got Birther Report. For this reason, we don’t see a lot of hacking on these sites. Orly, however, runs her own software, as did Berg and the Zullo. I run my own software and the Fogbow does also.

I don’t want to make too big a deal about a birther site getting hacked: “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” the saying runs. A while back, the URL shortening service used my Twitter feed got hacked. That didn’t affect my visitors, but I did have to change URL shortening providers (Twitter does this automatically now). Someone else who runs a site on the same server as I, was hacked and started sending spam. I do some of the basic anti-hacking stuff like obfuscating database tab names, using secret keys in cookies and always installing the current versions of all the software I use.

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23 Responses to Misplaced trust: hacking, punking and birthers

  1. avatar
    SueDB February 21, 2014 at 11:51 am #

    There is the Conduit bug going around. It is a browser/search bar redirector that is really nasty to get out and leaves tons of litter around. It also locks your home page and search engine to their sites only. You have to go to each browser to kill the search and the add-on codes.
    It won’t kill your machine, but makes life a real bitch for a while.

    One of the triggers for this is when you are asked to download the “New Viewer” for video content. When you say “yes”, it’s all over but your crying about a effed up computers.

    It puts something called Search Protect on your add/removed programs that has to be uninstalled along with the rest of the stuff. The SP just locks your machine to folks who have paid them money to redirect your searches to their web pages.

    Petty criminals doing petty crime.

  2. avatar
    Crustacean February 21, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    Doc, are you backing off the claim that Zullo lied about the 1961 vital statistics manual? If this was simply a “lapse in judgment” over a document he “believed” to be authentic, wouldn’t he have to be found “not guilty” of lying?

    I’m all for using discretion when it comes to throwing such accusations around, but I wonder if you’re being too magnanimous in letting this pest off the hook.

  3. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy February 21, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    My view is that Zullo either lied about the manual, or he lied about having the manual. Given that it would be easy for someone to check the accuracy of his claims, it is more likely than not that he never actually had the manual, but believed the screen shots to be authentic. The lie was that he had the manual when he really just showed a screen shot from a birther blog.

    I think Zullo’s pattern is to lie about the nature of his investigation and the extent to which he verifies sources. He relies on birthers and the Internet, rather than actual law enforcement sources.

    Crustacean:
    Doc, are you backing off the claim that Zullo lied about the 1961 vital statistics manual?If this was simply a “lapse in judgment” over a document he “believed” to be authentic, wouldn’t he have to be found “not guilty” of lying?

    I’m all for using discretion when it comes to throwing such accusations around, but I wonder if you’re being too magnanimous in letting this pest off the hook.

  4. avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater February 21, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: My view is that Zullo either lied about the manual, or he lied about having the manual. Given that it would be easy for someone to check the accuracy of his claims, it is more likely than not that he never actually had the manual, but believed the screen shots to be authentic. The lie was that he had the manual when he really just showed a screen shot from a birther blog.I think Zullo’s pattern is to lie about the nature of his investigation and the extent to which he verifies sources. He relies on birthers and the Internet, rather than actual law enforcement sources.

    I would further say that he did lie about having the manual and that he knew that’s what the codes were in 1961. Remember Doc that he used the screenshots as a lynchpin for the Verna Lee claims. He tried to use her to add credibility to the manual claims. They’ve presented no proof that they actually spoke to her and she said anything that had relation to the manual.

  5. avatar
    Yoda February 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater: I would further say that he did lie about having the manual and that he knew that’s what the codes were in 1961.Remember Doc that he used the screenshots as a lynchpin for the Verna Lee claims.He tried to use her to add credibility to the manual claims.They’ve presented no proof that they actually spoke to her and she said anything that had relation to the manual.

    My belief is that he was mislead by Corsi. Undoubtedly Corsi lied about the manual. But after the mistake was exposed, Zullo did not correct the mistake, he just ignored the issue, His refusal to admit that he was wrong is tantamount to a lie AND it shows his absolute incompetence as an investigator.

  6. avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater February 21, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

    Yoda: My belief is that he was mislead by Corsi. Undoubtedly Corsi lied about the manual. But after the mistake was exposed, Zullo did not correct the mistake, he just ignored the issue, His refusal to admit that he was wrong is tantamount to a lie AND it shows his absolute incompetence as an investigator.

    It’s the same thing as Zullo not correcting Volin or Gallups when they call him a Lt. A lie by omission is still a lie.

  7. avatar
    Curious George February 21, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    Here is the Zullo interview with ABC Phoenix, the day after the fateful July 17, 2012 press conference. Zullo makes it pretty clear that if he were wrong about his assertions that he would apologize, but then added that he wasn’t wrong.

    The people are still waiting for his apology. Nothing to be heard but crickets chirping in dark.

    http://www.abc15.com/news/region-phoenix-metro/central-phoenix/video-arpaios-lead-investigator-talks-obama-birth-certificate-to-abc15

  8. avatar
    Nancy R Owens February 21, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    *grimace* This makes me think that it’s time to stop procrastinating on redoing my website. I’ll need a bottle of wine first because it’s like climbing the Hogwarts School of WitchCraft and Wizardry stairs. Just when you think you’ve got it perfected, everything on the page moves to a new location.

  9. avatar
    gorefan February 21, 2014 at 8:54 pm #

    Curious George:
    Here is the Zullo interview

    That is the same interview where he said the Dr. Bennett article was written 10 years ago. It was written in 1955. He also said it verified how certification numbers were assigned to the birth certificates by the DOH. The article makes no mention of the certification numbers.

    Corsica made a similar claim about the Bennett article. I assumed that’s where Zullo got it. I doubt if Zullo even read the article.

  10. avatar
    RanTalbott February 22, 2014 at 6:36 am #

    Zullo’s biggest lapse in judgment was when he believed the fake 1961 vital statistics manual and then made it the centerpiece of his 2nd press conference

    Well, he didn’t believe it when it said “Unknown or not stated”. Or “Race of parents only”.

    I’m a big believer in not attributing to malevolence that which is adequately explained by incompetence. So I might have given them benefit of the doubt on the failure to realize they had the wrong manual when they found codings for fields that weren’t covered in the manual.

    But incompetence does NOT adequately explain taking a coding instruction that says “don’t use this for anything else” and using it for something else.

    It’s pretty clear what happened: they had a belief that “9” meant “not stated”, probably because of some mistake. But, when they found evidence that that was not the case, instead of saying “Oops: our theory is blown”, they just flat-out lied.

    That’s not “Misplaced trust”: that’s “Misplaced morals”.

  11. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy February 22, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    Remember the source, The Daily Pen. The Daily Pen on multiple occasions faked documents, by removing words, misrepresenting fuzzy images, and mislabeling them. The Daily Pen lied about the manual before Zullo did. So Zullo repeated the lie knowingly or not. If he didn’t know it was a lie, then it was because he didn’t have the manual, and in that case he lied about having it.

    When I say that the Cold Case Posse lied, I refer to the loose amalgam of birthers that send Zullo stuff–the same way Zullo uses the term when he says “we.”

    RanTalbott: I’m a big believer in not attributing to malevolence that which is adequately explained by incompetence. So I might have given them benefit of the doubt on the failure to realize they had the wrong manual when they found codings for fields that weren’t covered in the manual.

  12. avatar
    Reality Check February 22, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    The Daily Pen was ran so many ludicrous, faked articles that many of us believed it could be a punking site. If Zullo was aware of the deception he had to be an incredibly stupid and lazy researcher, a possibility I have never discounted.

    Dr. Conspiracy: Remember the source, The Daily Pen.

  13. avatar
    Hermitian February 22, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    Mr. C

    “always installing the current versions of all the software I use.”

    Adobe Acrobat is now up to version 11. You are still using version 9. I suspect you don’t upgrade because of your need to retain edit capability for certain old PDF files.

    Your readers can guess which ones…

  14. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy February 22, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    I meant latest software on the blog.

    I use Acrobat 9.5 because the upgrade costs money, and I don’t need it. I use Adobe Reader XI.

    I am aware of no compatibility issues.

    Go back in the box.

    Hermitian: Adobe Acrobat is now up to version 11.You are still using version 9.I suspect you don’t upgrade because of your need to retain edit capability for certain old PDF files.

    Your readers can guess which ones…

  15. avatar
    The Magic M (not logged in) February 22, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

    Hermitian: I suspect you don’t upgrade because of your need to retain edit capability for certain old PDF files.

    You are aware that it’s child’s play to have different versions of Adobe programs next to each other on the same machine? I have CS4 and simultaneously CS6 installed (mostly because my girlfriend prefers InDesign CS4 over its CS6 counterpart) with no issues.
    If I wanted to, I could put Photoshop 4.0 next to it, just for thrills. That’s from 1996, just so you know.

  16. avatar
    The Magic M (not logged in) February 22, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    RanTalbott: I’m a big believer in not attributing to malevolence that which is adequately explained by incompetence

    But I think that premise only holds until “fool me once…” has kicked in. After the first lie, Zullo no longer deserves the label “just incompetent”. He’s one of birtherism’s main propagandists, and even if he takes stuff 1:1 from other birthers, he at least doesn’t care if it’s wrong. In legalese, that would be dolus eventualis (not sure about the proper English equivalent, “conditional intent”?). Legally, that’s more than incompetence, it’s even enough to get you indicted (if the underlying act can be classified as a crime, like fraud or libel/slander).

  17. avatar
    Thinker February 22, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    And Doc C had exposed the lie about the codes months before Zullo’s press conference where he used them. Corsi had to have known it was BS and Zullo probably knew. If Zullo really didn’t know about the chicanery, then when it was pointed out to him (probably within hours of his press conference), he should have fessed up, blamed it on Corsi, and retracted the ‘findings.’

    I wonder why this bit of dishonesty doesn’t bother birthers. If I were a true believer, I’d be pissed that Zullo and Corsi destroyed any possibility of the Cold Case Posse ever being taken seriously by anyone that matters.

    Reality Check:
    The Daily Pen was ran so many ludicrous, fakedarticles that many of us believed it could be a punking site. If Zullo was aware of the deception he had to be an incredibly stupid and lazy researcher, a possibility I have never discounted.

  18. avatar
    RanTalbott February 22, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    Thinker:

    I wonder why this bit of dishonesty doesn’t bother birthers

    This goes back to why I coined the term “neandercons” to distinguish dittoheads, Savage Nation members, et al from “real” (i.e., ideological) “conservatives”: they have a primitive “tribal” view of the world, where the “truth” of statements is judged by their conformity to tribal belief, and the trustworthiness of sources is based on tribal membership.

    Thus, “The Earth is round, with a diameter of about 8000 miles” becomes “librul BS” if you say your read it on snopes or wikipedia, and “Obama is a Marxist Muslim Martian” becomes “truth”, even if the soi-disant “conservative” who made the claim has repeatedly been caught just making stuff up.

    And the fact that “anybody that matters” doesn’t believe Zullo and Corsi is not a result of their having destroyed their own credibility, but of being “gotten to” by the Dark Forces of the Conspiracy™ so they reject claims that just have to be true because they’re made by fellow members of the tribe.

  19. avatar
    JPotter February 22, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    Hermitian: Adobe Acrobat is now up to version 11. You are still using version 9. I suspect you don’t upgrade because of your need to retain edit capability for certain old PDF files.

    Another success in a years-long effort to demonstrate total ignorance of all things PDF-related. Well done, Herms!

  20. avatar
    RanTalbott February 22, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

    The Magic M (not logged in): But I think that premise only holds until “fool me once…” has kicked in.

    I’d probably cut the average layman a little more slack on being misinformed, but I certainly agree when it comes to someone pretending to be “professional law enforement”. Even if they make a mistake in gathering information, the responsibility to double-check everything would prevent a real professional from ever going public with it.

    The Magic M (not logged in): In legalese, that would be dolus eventualis (not sure about the proper English equivalent, “conditional intent”?)

    Isn’t that what they call “reckless disregard for the truth” in libel law?

    “dolus eventualis” just sounds like “You’ll be so-o-orry” to me, but it’s been a lot years since Latin classes, and I haven’t encountered the term in any cases I’ve read about, so I’ll just take the opportunity for the cheap joke instead of guessing what the proper equivalent is.

  21. avatar
    Andrew Vrba, PmG February 22, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    Hermitian: Adobe Acrobat is now up to version 11.You are still using version 9.I suspect you don’t upgrade because of your need to retain edit capability for certain old PDF files.

    Your readers can guess which ones…

    Yes, the “Hermitian is a dumbass.pdf” constantly needs updated, because every time you post here, you type something incredibly more stupid than the previous times.

  22. avatar
    Keith February 22, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    Andrew Vrba, PmG: Yes, the “Hermitian is a dumbass.pdf” constantly needs updated, because every time you post here, you type something incredibly more stupid than the previous times.

    Yeah, well that was dumb alright, but still not as dumb as ‘it didn’t work right because the scanner was low on toner’ remark.

    But if you mean you just need to add them to the end, we must be getting near the PDF document size limit mustn’t we? ;-)

  23. avatar
    Curious George February 22, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

    Thinker
    “I wonder why this bit of dishonesty doesn’t bother birthers.”

    It only bothers hard-core Birthers if one exposes the mistake / lie / embarrassment because it detracts from the approved story and the approved goal.