Islamic criminals take down Egyptology web sites: TPTB take no action.

I learn from Paleobabble that a particularly nasty bit of cyber-violence has been going on.  It seems that Moslem groups in Egypt have been running attacks on the Egyptology sites edited by Kate Phizackerly and others, notably the KV64 news blog, on discoveries in the Valley of the Kings, and their new project, the Egyptological magazine.  The sites have gone off-line.

On the former there is the message:

Following on from the problems at Egyptological I have taken the reluctant decision to close this blog as well for the foreseeable future.  Many thanks for your support over the years.

Mike adds:

As her words indicate, Kate was also one of the forces behind the online journal Egyptological, which was recently discontinued due to hacking efforts on the part of radicalized Islamic elements in Egypt. Apparently the KV64 blog was also incompatible with those elements. Another loss for free speech in Egypt.

Here I must disagreed with Mike.  There never was free speech in Egypt, except under British rule.  It was a despotism before that period, and ever since.  The issue is free speech online.  Free speech for us.  Here in the west.  Now.

A bunch of violent scumbags from the back-end of nowhere, who never have contributed in any way to the web, have successfully interfered with the scientific effort of the entire human race.  And our masters, The Powers That Be, who live very well on our taxes, they say … nothing.  It’s OK, apparently.  So next year, there will be more.

The selfish scum who did this care nothing about Egyptology, of course.  They only care about their own wishes, and whether they will get caught.  They’re criminals, in other words; because that more or less defines the word “criminal” and his activity.  These sorts of people are why we have policemen in real life, and why we need them.  Now they are doing their evil deeds online.

It seems to me that criminal activity on the web is now threatening all of us who contribute to it.  It is becoming very risky to contribute online under your own name.  The criminals will try to smear you online, and if possible damage your business thereby.  Cowardly employers will see the lies, and shy away.  Any of us can be harmed by this kind of thing.  What can we do?  I would discourage anyone from posting online under their own name.  But of course the malicious love to “reveal” identities that they themselves have forced people to hide.

We must all wish Kate and her team well.  They went the extra mile, they contributed, they helped others.  Well done, people!

UPDATE: I have just found the announcement about the attacks on Egyptological here.

Kate and Andrea are very sad to announce that Egyptological will be unavailable for the forseeable future.  It has been targeted by a professional hacking group as part of an onslaught on Egypt-related web sites during the current unrest in Egypt.

Although we have been in negotiations with the hackers, which seemed to be going well, they have now announced their intention of resuming hostilities against us.  They apparently see Egyptology sites such as ours as representing a form of political threat.

Until we have been able to assess the level of damage inflicted upon our backup solution, and have been able to devise a new strategy for the future security of Egyptological, our site will remain unavailable.  We do not expect it to be recovered until the end of January.

Please be aware, however, that we are fully committed to restoring Egyptological to its former state, together with the latest unpublished edition of the Magazine, and we are investigating the possibility of publishing a temporary archive at an earlier date.

We recommend that anyone with similar web sites should upgrade their own security arrangements, as you may now be interpreted as representing a political or religious affiliation.

Kind regards from both of us

Andrea Byrnes and Kate Phizackerley
Egyptological

Sadly they were unable to recover the situation.

UPDATE: A post has appeared from Drs Byrnes and Phizackerley here.  Evidently some people have been in touch to try to find out who the guilty parties are.  Drs B. and P., quite naturally, do not want to get involved.

There seem to be suggestions that Andrea and I know the affiliation of those who hacked us. We don’t and by policy I haven’t speculated. Part of the reason for my reticence is that some, although not all, of the hackers have been polite to us. In particular, at no point did the hackers claim association with any religion.

We are grateful for the offers of assistance, thank you. … I am however reluctant to  share any further details of what has happened with anybody to avoid  the risk of a third party politicising the issue.

By policy Egyptological was apolitical and respectful of all religions. If there is to be any future, we will retain those principles. And perhaps the times when principles matter most are in the face of adversity.

Someone should be able to work out precisely who the attackers are, and remove all doubt.  That would seem the first thing for the technically minded to determine.

It is, admittedly, extremely hard to think of any other group in the world likely to attack archaeological sites (in both senses of the word).  But of course I am entirely willing to learn different.  Who else could possibly do such a thing?

25 Responses to “Islamic criminals take down Egyptology web sites: TPTB take no action.”


  1. Gerhard Mack

    What sort of attacks did they face?

  2. Roger Pearse

    I don’t know – I only have what I wrote above. But clearly it was serious and prolonged.

  3. Gerhard Mack

    It’s a pity the news didn’t get out until now. I think there are plenty of tech types (myself included) who would enjoy trying to solve this problem.

  4. Roger Pearse

    Agreed.

  5. Suburbanbanshee

    Well, the news just hit Slashdot, and they are boiling.

    *whistles innocently*

  6. Suburbanbanshee

    Well, now I’m sad. I read through the Slashdot comments, and it looks like a zillion snarks and arguments but no constructive help. (Albeit maybe some people are helping instead of talking.) In the old days, Slashdot people would have been offering the Egyptologists some real work and advice that was to the point, not just blah-blahing. (I’ve got nothing against chit-chat in tandem with results.)

    And so we fiddle while Rome burns….

    Still, maybe somebody will help the Egyptology folks.

  7. Gerhard Mack

    Well, personally, I’d love to help but I’m not sure how to get in touch with the people affected.

  8. Roger Pearse

    Kate can be found here.

  9. moftasa

    1. How do you know they are a Muslim group?
    2. What is their name?

    Reason I am asking is that I find it odd that current advertised hacking campaigns being conducted against Egypt related websites is by Anonymous under the name #OpEgypt.

    These hacking campaigns by Anonymous are in protest of decisions by the recently elect president who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist current who are trying to tighten their grip over the country and bring back dictatorship but with a different flavour.

    Not to be dragged to side issues, but your assertion that “There never was free speech in Egypt, except under British rule.” is not true, even under British rule you could be sent to jail for insulting the monarch.

  10. Roger Pearse

    The Slashdot article is here, and it is great to see it there. The comments, unfortunately, are of no service at all, and won’t achieve anything.

  11. Roger Pearse

    @Moftasa: these are good questions. But yes, it is an Islamic group. Unfortunately I don’t know their name.

    You’re right, of course: there were limits, even under British rule. But the general point is correct.

  12. Roger Pearse

    The victims have probably been pretty badly beaten up here, so I hope people will bear this in mind.

  13. Roger Pearse

    @Moftasa: the victims have denied that they ARE a Moslem group, apparently. But who on earth else could want to do such a thing?

  14. Roger Pearse

    Not that I agree with Anonymous attacking Egyptian government sites either. Live and let live. I don’t believe this sort of thing achieves anything.

  15. Dioscorus Boles

    The attackers will not be correctly identified until of course the matter is investigated by law enforcement agencies. But it is reasonable to think what Roger has thought. Ancient Egyptian monuments have been increasingly under attack by Islamists.

    I just wonder if Egyptological has written anything about the recent Islamists’ attack on the Dahshur pyramid area.

  16. Roger Pearse

    Egyptological no longer exists, sadly. Is this the story you had in mind?

  17. Stuart

    There was never free speech under British rule, except for the British occupiers, and even that was heavily circumscribed. We were good at keeping Egyptian prison full of Egyptians (and the occasional interesting Westerner) while suppressing Egyptian publications. We even based the Greek royal family there for a bit while suppressing Greek democracy.

    “Free speech under our rule” is exactly the kind of statement that fuels the hardline fires.

  18. Dioscorus Boles

    Roger, yes that is the story about Dahshur. I was wondering if Egyptological covered that story, and perhaps it triggered it being attacked by the Islamists.

    Stuart, yes, the only democratic and liberal period in Egypt was experienced by Egyptians under British rule between 1922 and 1952.

  19. Roger Pearse

    @Stuart, I don’t know what you’re reading, but it’s terrible nonsense. It sounds a bit like some anti-colonial rant to me? — the sort of stuff that was written by Soviet apologists in the 60’s as an excuse to enslave most Africans back to their traditional oppressors.

    That stuff always involved attitudes and ideas which are quite anachronistic. Consider: did Nasser, the “Big Dictator” as I have heard Egyptians call him, operate a free press? Or Sadat? Or even Mubarak, mildest of the three? The Egyptian press was far freer before all of these despots came along, even though certainly regulated and censored.

    I enjoyed particularly the idea that British colonial rule involved censorship of *British personnel*. The empire, which I actually remember the last bits of, did not work like that: Britons, remember, were never, never slaves. You could do some pretty wild stuff out there, and the worst that would happen to you was to be sent home. I remember one incident where a British firm in Bombay was found to be selling modern arms to the tribesmen on the Kyber Pass, who were using them to kill British forces. The company was invited merely to leave India.

    Now I’m sure you write in good faith; but we have been subjected to 50 years of supercharged nonsense. The people who lived and worked in the empire knew different. In our libraries, unread, are the memoirs of retired imperial civil servants from all over the empire, written before the dawn of modern anti-colonialism. These will make very clear how the empire was really run, as written by those who did it.

    I would advise anyone interested in British Egypt to read some contemporary accounts of how British rule really worked. In particular, a read of Milner’s “England in Egypt” will give anyone who does so an excellent idea of how *everything* actually worked, and what the direction and purpose of policy was.

    But I fear that we drift off topic with this issue, so pardon me if I moderate further comments in this direction. There is a serious current issue that we need to worry about here.

  20. Roger Pearse

    The Register has also picked up the story.

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