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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Blog Skewers A Conservative Newspaper And Then Gets Hacked


A blog that recently gained national attention for revealing the hypocrisy behind one of the South's most conservative newspapers has become the target of hackers.

The Birmingham Skews has been forced to change its Internet host after an attack from hackers. That came not long after the blog revealed that Birmingham News columnist John Archibald, who had made fun of several public figures and their bankruptcies, had filed for bankruptcy himself. In the process, Archibald looked like a fool, first denying the personal bankruptcy, then claiming he didn't remember a foreclosure on his own house, then essentially blaming the whole affair on his wife.

The unnamed author of The Birmingham Skews has vowed to look into the dirty laundry of several News staffers. That apparently caused enough discomfort to make someone want to shut down the uppity blog. The hacking attack, of course, only makes it appear that folks at Alabama's largest newspaper have something to hide.

What has The Birmingham Skews been experiencing in recent days? We had noticed that the site suddenly took on a radically different look. Well, it turns out there is a reason for that:

As you have probably noticed, the Birmingham Skews has a different look and is coming to you from a different host. That is because I was hacked. Sometime on Sunday morning, someone hacked into my Gmail, my blog, and my Twitter accounts and took over those accounts. I have since ported the Skews to this host, and recently regained access to my Gmail.

Someone or some organization has targeted me, and tried to eliminate this blog and mute my voice. They hacked into my personal accounts. They do not like what I am doing with the Birmingham Skews, and have tried to shut me down. What these people have done isn’t just unethical, it is illegal.

Who did this? The Skews has some leads:

These are some IP addresses that I managed to capture, and are people who are associated with the hacking:

75.214.244.245
71.229.16.248
75.223.180.136

Conveniently, some of those IP addresses are associated with an area where the Birmingham News’ parent company has a presence. This was an organized, orchestrated effort to attack the Skews and criminally take over my accounts. Whoever did this has committed a crime in an effort to identify and silence me.

I share in the outrage over this underhanded attempt to silence The Birmingham Skews. But I am not surprised that it happened. After all, I was cheated out of my job as an editor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) after I started my blog that reports on uncomfortable truths about our state's conservative elites:

Blog About Siegelman, Lose Your Job


Did I really get fired for writing a blog, on my own time, about the Don Siegelman case? Yes, I did--and a UAB human-resources official named Anita Bonasera admitted as much in a phone conversation that I tape recorded:

Audio: UAB and the Cost of Blogging About the Siegelman Case

My guess is that The Birmingham News thugs would have tried to cost the Skews' author his job, but he posts anonymously and they apparently have not been able to track down his workplace. That's probably why they resorted to hacking.

The Skews story is rich with irony for your humble blogger. I long have suspected that individuals at The Birmingham News either helped cause my termination--or they know who did. Dale Turnbough, the associate vice president for public relations who signed my bogus termination letter, is charged essentially with placating the local media, keeping them at bay. I feel certain that Turnbough would have no problem cheating me out of my job if she thought it would make Birmingham News higher-ups happy. Heck, that might have help buy UAB lots of puffy publicity.

If the News folks weren't actively involved in my termination, I would bet what's left of my mortgage that they know who was behind it. I met separately with Archibald and his editor, Tom Scarritt, about the clear corruption in Shelby County that prompted me to start this blog. They both blew me off, clearly because the bad guys were Republicans.

That's how top dogs at The Birmingham News think--and I know that from personal experience.

Am I pleased that the Skews is zeroing in on the News? You're darned tootin' I am. In fact, I might help in that effort. I've become pretty adept at using public records to unearth sleaze on Birmingham elites--in the press, the law, in government, in business. The Schnauzer is sniffing in some pretty interesting corners these days--and you never know what rats might fly out from under cover.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

What's her name- Anita Bonasera of UAB human-resources?

Don't play with Mr. Schnauzer.

Anonymous said...

Lord have MERCY!!!

Don't get Mr. Schnauzer perturbed.

Anonymous said...

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Redeye said...

"The hacking attack, of course, only makes it appear that folks at Alabama's largest newspaper have something to hide."

Ya think?

Birmingham Skews said...

Thanks for helping to shine the light of day on those who try to not only skew but also squelch the voices of the few!

Jennifer said...

Those IP addresses listed are not registered to anyone in particular. You have absolutely no proof whatsoever to back up any claims you've made.

Further, I find it rather interesting that not only did Skews switch to a site that conveniently does not allow for commenting but that his comments on al.com follow the "bot model"-- meaning that he makes a comment supported by several "others" who conveniently have a nonexistent commenting history.

Skews outed himself yesterday as being a tool of Alabama Power. So glad to see exactly who was willing to step in line to the beat of that drum. Thanks for playing, though.

legalschnauzer said...

Jennifer:

What do you mean by "claims that I made." I reported about the author of Birmingham Skews saying his site had been hacked. I guess you could say that's a claim from him, but it's not from me, so I'm not sure what you are referring too.

Are any IP addresses "registered" to any one person? I'm not an expert on that subject, but I didn't know IP addresses were handled in that fashion.

How did the Skews author reveal himself to be "tool of Alabama Power"? I missed that. Care to share a link?

Jennifer said...

First off... Anything I'm about to tell you here, you can easily Google to confirm. This is just some basic stuff. Also, IP lookup is completely legal just as a WHOIS lookup is because it by itself will not give any personal information or access.

And yes I should have specified that the claims were made by him, but you in your reposting seemed to back those claims.

You can Google an IP lookup tool. Put in the IP address in question. That will give you some basic information on the IP address. Two of them are registered to Verizon Wireless and are for mobile devices, so the claim that they're from a Birmingham News HQ is bogus there.

The third is a residential IP address listed as Comcast that is dynamic (meaning that it won't stay the same for any one person and is likely residential). Most of the time a business of any decent size (even many small businesses) will use a business ISP account that includes a static (stays the same) IP address for the purposes of stability. (When a dynamic IP is released and renewed as a new IP, you lose your connection for a short period, and it can sometimes cause problems.) What this means is that the third IP is a residential IP.

Put simply... Skews' claim that the IP addresses belong to the Birmingham News of give any indication at all of belonging to the News is a complete and utter fallacy that is easily disproven by anyone who knows how to Google.

Also... The third IP is in my router's history. It's no longer my IP address, but it has been. I didn't hack Skews, if in fact he was ever hacked. Typically if an account is hacked there is some graffiti or deletion of the account, and I've seen neither one that he has provided as evidence. And of course at this point should he provide it, I could easily assume that he did it himself to "prove" that he was hacked after the fact of me bringing up that he didn't substantiate his claim.

But I did raise some rather interesting questions-- like the fact that if you completely ignore his anti-news rhetoric he makes arguments that most liberals would not support. He then goes on further in his next post to outright ask his readers to dig further into those IP addresses (which are easily proven to not belong to the News), which IS an illegal activity.

Needless to say... I am highly upset by that one. I said that if they were going to go after Archibald for suggesting JeffCo stick it to the banks or a corporate entity that they'd go after any one of us. And as soon as I raise questions, that's precisely what happened.

As the person making the accusation that he was hacked by someone associated with the News, the burden of proof should have been on him from the beginning. He has failed and in fact provided falsified evidence.

Jennifer said...

Regarding the association with Alabama Power... Granted this is circumstantial, but bear with me. The only thing we can do to verify for certain is to wait and see the Alabama Power "receipts" to see if they've paid out to Matrix lately. (We know they've done so in the past.) Or if Skews himself comes out and says it outright.

Archibald has very clearly been fishing with his articles of late. Thus far the responses from Skews have been the same. The Sunday column, however would surely fish out any supporters of Alabama Power, and this is where Skews tipped his hand with a classic Matrix move. Skews, to my knowledge, has not used sock puppets to any real extent before. This article used them in spades. And while Skews went on to semi-sorta talk about how Jeffco MIGHT want to get out from under the big banks, he practically tripped over himself to write an article that labeled the Alabama Power "influence" fund as no big deal. This sudden change in behavior is what poker players would call a "tell."

Now, if you're reading his site as someone who sides with him on the mere issue of being anti-News, it's quite easy to overlook this. But again, if you go to his site and completely overlook the anti-News rhetoric and read the other stuff he wrote... It's quite eye-opening. I'd say he made quite the good case for himself being a tool of Alabama Power.

As I've said a few times, I have no big issue with mere criticism of the News. But this got my attention because it's being done in such a way to distract from the issues that the News is covering-- issues that progressives might find interesting-- to instead being all about the News. There's a big difference between the two. And my main concern as always has been that while you're busy talking about this whole "scandal" with the News, we're NOT talking about the important issues that they're covering. Something in my gut tells me that's exactly what this author wants. It was precisely the point I kept bringing up in his comments before he saw fit to post my IP address and request that his readers dig into it.

Something is very wrong here. It doesn't pass the basic smell test, and I feel if you guys weren't so blinded by Archie-hate, you'd see it.

legalschnauzer said...

Jennifer:

My role here is not to defend Bham Skews, but I do have to correct some misstatements that you have made.

Skews did not say the IP addresses were directly connected to the Bham News or its parent company. He said they were from areas where the parent company has a presence. An interested reader, who does NOT support Skews, has told me the IP addresses are from the Mobile, AL, and Houston, TX, areas. I haven't confirmed that, but if it's true, Advance Publications does have presences in those areas--Mobile Press-Register and Houston Business Journal. Therefore, the Skews statements are factual. I would suggest you go back and read what the blog actually said on this topic.

You make a reference to issues "a liberal would support." I don't care whether Skews is written by liberals or conservatives. I'm interested in the truth. So far, I've found the Skews' reporting to be truthful, much of it based on public documents.

What law is Skews violating by asking readers to help with information about who hacked his blog? I'm not aware of any such law. You are concerned about that law but not any law that might have been broken by the hacking itself?

Finally, you clearly state that John Archibald is using his column to conduct fishing expeditions connected to his personal interests. And you are concerned with the ethics of the Skews?

Jennifer said...

The IPs are not associated with the Birmingham News. Period. And to say that they are from an area where the Birmingham News parent company has a presence is a pretty broad statement consider that they have a presence pretty much everywhere in the U.S. In fact there are very few IP addresses that would NOT meet that condition. (Houston is the location of a VZW provider-- not that of the user-- and many mobile devices in Alabama will have such an IP. It's important to remember that an IP lookup will typically give you the location and information for the PROVIDER and not the USER.) So then if that's TRULY what he meant was (that it was just a random IP address in the U.S. that had no chance of being associated with Advance because it was a residential dynamic IP and two smart phones), then why did he use the wording he used if he didn't want to imply that they were associated?

Is the b.s. really that hard to see, or is it just that you don't want to see it?

Yes, originally hacking an account is illegal-- if it happened at all. (For the umpteenth time, we have only the unsubstantiated word of some anonymous person who just randomly popped up out of nowhere that this happened at all.) That doesn't make retaliatory hacking any more legal, and you should know that.

So let me put this simply: Skews posted (and you copied) an IP address that was used by this computer and a suggestion that readers hack into it. That's akin to me posting the location of your frequent parking spot and saying, "My car was damaged (though I haven't filed a claim and have no other proof aside from my word), and this might be where the culprit parks. Wouldn't it be a shame if something bad were to happen to a car that was parked here?" Would that be ethical for me to do?

There's absolutely nothing wrong, unethical, or even unusual with covering a variety of topics just as you would either way and seeing if one in particular might strike a note with your readers. That's actually considered to be standard practice for any writer. You do it. I do it. Redeye does it. Skews does it. So if you're implying that there's anything wrong with it, then I suppose we're all going to hell.

Archibald has not said that he was intentionally trying to snag Skews. That was my perspective because he'd started hitting a wider variety of topics that hit on public corruption. It could have been coincidental.

The fact remains that the note was hit, and you seem to want to ignore that. The fact remains that Skews misled readers into thinking he was hacked by IPs that were associated with the Birmingham News (which they are not) and that he suggested his readers retaliate, and you're defending that. Get technical on me with his wording all you want. It's quite obvious what that wording is meant to convey, and that is much more of a "skewing" than the Birmingham News has ever concocted. If someone is going to make their mission to point out the bias or slant of an organization, should not their top priority be making sure that they are not themselves misleading readers?

legalschnauzer said...

Jennifer:

You continue to put words in the Skews that are not there. You reference "retaliatory hacking." Here is whath Skews actually says:

"I plan to pursue all legal action available to prosecute those responsible. But in the meantime, I am asking for your help. Help me shed some light upon the people or organization behind this illegal attack. Help me reveal to the world the people behind this attack and strike a blow in defense of free speech."

Where is he encouraging people to hack those IP addresses? I don't see it.

Again, the Skews did not say the IP addresses are connected to the News. It said they come from areas where the parent company has a presence--and that is true. In my view, that doesn't prove much of anything. But it apparently is a factual statement.

It's not a matter of "getting technical" with wording. It's a matter of reading what the blog actually says.

The blog seeks help in identifying who hacked the site. That could be in the form of someone calling or writing a letter to give a tip. It says nothing about hacking.

You seem to read the Skews through a certain prism, to determine what it "suggests." I would encourage you to read what it actually says.

Redeye said...

Does this sound familiar?


" The fact remains that Skews misled readers into thinking he was hacked by IPs that were associated with the Birmingham News (which they are not) and that he suggested his readers retaliate, and you're defending that."

http://www.leftinalabama.com/diary/8066/hacked-riiiight

The Skews isn't the one misleading readers.:)

Redeye said...

PS, compare
Further, I find it rather interesting that not only did Skews switch to a site that conveniently does not allow for commenting but that his comments on al.com follow the "bot model"-- meaning that he makes a comment supported by several "others" who conveniently have a nonexistent commenting history.

Where have we heard this before?

Lo and behold, if you clicked on the usernames for those supporting "thetruth" and other similar names, you will find something interesting-- no previous comment history. One had a history of three comments, all in support of "truth" or attacking the News.

Where have we seen this before? Oh right. Various interests with the help of Matrix. And who is a huge Matrix client? Alabama Power.

Lo and behold, if you clicked on the usernames for those supporting "thetruth" and other similar names, you will find something interesting-- no previous comment history. One had a history of three comments, all in support of "truth" or attacking the News.

Where have we seen this before? Oh right. Various interests with the help of Matrix. And who is a huge Matrix client? Alabama Power.

Lo and behold, if you clicked on the usernames for those supporting "thetruth" and other similar names, you will find something interesting-- no previous comment history. One had a history of three comments, all in support of "truth" or attacking the News.

Where have we seen this before? Oh right. Various interests with the help of Matrix. And who is a huge Matrix client? Alabama Power.

http://www.leftinalabama.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=8062

Redeye said...

Paging Max Shelby! Since I am barred from posting at Left in Alabama I am forced to ask you to respond to a comment you made about Legal Schanuazer in this forum.
You said:
Add another one to the list (0.00 / 0)
"the truth"

In Arch's recent article about Blount and the sewer deal, "the truth" posted Legal Schanuzer's article supporting the Birmingham Skews Matrix and it was removed.

Normally, I would be firmly against that, and loathe censorship from even the most unpleasant sources (the commenter who is no doubt another operative) but any help to Matrix I am even more against.

Forgive me, but I don't understand what Matrix (?) or Alabama Power have to do with the FACT John Archibald wrote an article published in The Birmingham News mocking black people who had filed for bankruptcy and when it exposed he had filed for bankruptcy too he lied about it.

My question is why are the Birmingham Skews and Legal Schanuzer being made to be the bad guys? And what do Matrix(?) and Alabama Power have to with the price of tea in China?

In the interest of full disclosure I have no personal assocation with The Birmingham Skews, Legal Schnauzer, John Archibald, The Birmingham News, Alabama Power or Matrix.

Redeye said...

Damn Max! I thought we were on the same side! I thought we were both sick and tired of being sick and tired?

Good article, good advice (4.00 / 1)
Flaming is another concept that seems to escape some bloggers. I hate to see heated back and forth more than a couple of times, and think readers are put off by an argumentative site owner.

As a general rule, let commenters have their say and don't argue on and on with them.

Probably not a good idea to grab someone's comments from one forum where the grabber is banned and paste them in another and try to keep something stirred up.

"Just say no to Internet trolls"


Sorry I bothered you.

Anonymous said...

THX for sharing

Anonymous said...

Please emember Neal Wade and Alabama Power/Southern Company, Canary's BCOA, Bay County, FL Economic Development Alliance, Joe Company, Mark Bellinger, Non-Profit BP Racketeers, EDU.coms, etc..