New Orleans Stir up a perfect gumbo with ExxonMobil and climate change activists, and what can go wrong, right? In a convoluted “who shot John” story recently in the Journal, it seems perhaps thousands of climate campaigns may have been targeted by hackers from India employed by an Israeli private detective named Aviram Azari who pled guilty to his part in this mess a year ago and is awaiting sentencing. Still confused? Welcome aboard!
Let’s try to unravel this.
What’s clear is that Azari had a mess of clients not only in Israel, but also in Europe and the United States. It also seems sort of clear from work done by the Toronto-based Citizen Lab that the hacking was done by an India-based outfit called BellTroX, hired by Azari. Where do these companies get these bizarre names, I wonder? Azari is close lipped about this job. He’s admitted doing work for the German payments company, Wirecard, that is such a huge scandal in that country, that he might be guilty of association, but he’s refusing to cough up the names of his employer in the climate hack. He did admit that he furnished the Indian company with “information on the main targets for each hacking project as well as on individuals who were connected to the main targets, such as family, friends or co-workers.” It’s also clear that the “mission impossible” for this crew was finding anyone and everyone who might be talking smack about ExxonMobil, and it’s role in global warming and climate catastrophe.
The main tactic of the hackers seems to have been old-school phishing, where you email the target and trick them into opening an attachment, which then opens the door for the meanies to come running in to rip your personal details and emails. A bunch of well-known enviro groups like 350.org, Greenpeace, Public Citizen, and others had bullseye on their backs as well as the Rockefeller Family Fund. Some pretty big irony there, since ExxonMobil is the largest successor to emerge from the giant Rockefeller controlled firm Standard Oil after the trust was broken. The main result of all of this I-spy hackathon seems to have been finding an email that exposed an invitation-only meeting at the foundation for a dozen or more climate campaigners to coordinate ongoing strategy to make Exxon pay for its historic knowledge of global warming risk and its reckless disregard and actions to increase the problems.
I’m not sure why the hacking was necessary. Seems like a simple note or phone call to any of these groups would have been greeted with an endless stream of Exxon hateration enough to make anyone hang up the phone or unplug the internet after it went on for endless hours. The whole hack seems to be one of those, “no, duh” moments.
Meanwhile, Exxon says it had nothing to do with the hack, but is oh so put out by the enviros smudging its oily image. The foundation and the enviros express outrage at being hacked, but this also seems more along the lines of righteous indignation mixed with a little bit of shame that any of these highly sophisticated folks would be tricked by phishing. I mean really?!?
They want to know who ordered the hit, but that brings us back to Azari, which is where we started, but he’s not talking. They may get lucky. He asked for a delay in sentencing, which was scheduled recently, which may mean he’s trying to make one of those “I talk and I walk” deals. Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that this climate thing is a real fight with big players, big money, and huge costs to the losers, both us and them, so if we’re in it to win it, we can’t expect this to be Marquis of Queensberry rules. This is a bar fight and bottles will be broken, so that’s worth keeping in mind when handling comms or direct actions.