A group presenting itself as Iranian — the call themselves Parastoo, which is apparently Farsi for “swallow” — somehow acquired an old IAEA server.  The machine was not wiped clean of data. Parastoo has now posted some of the data online, vaguely threatening a number of persons with compromised emails, unless they sign a petition demanding the IAEA open an investigation into Israel’s nuclear weapons activities:

WE ASK THESE INDIVIDUALS TO SIGN A PETITION DEMANDING AN OPEN IAEA INVESTIGATION INTO ACTIVITIES AT DIMONA . WE WOULD LIKE TO ASSERT THAT WE HAVE EVIDENCES SHOWING THERE ARE BEYOND-HARMFUL OPERATIONS TAKING PLACE AT THIS SITE AND THE ABOVE LIST WHO TECHNICALLY HELP IAEA COULD BE CONSIDERED A PARTNER IN CRIME SHOULD AN ACCIDENT HAPPEN THERE . IN SUCH CASE , MANY PEOPLE WOULD LIKE TO AT LEAST ASK SOME QUESTIONS AND PARASTOO WILL PUBLISH WHEREABOUTS OF EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE INDIVIDUALS ALONGSIDE WITH BITS OF HELPFUL PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DETAILS .

I am sure the IAEA is worried.  After all, the IAEA must have no idea what else is on that server.  Then again, I am not sure Parastoo does either. This is a really misguided attack.

Never mind that the IAEA has no authority to conduct such an investigation, the worst offense against common sense is that Parastoo is shaking down persons who have nothing to do with safeguards or nuclear weapons.

I read the list of emails and thought: “This is a funny sort of list.  I don’t know anyone on it.” I decided to start looking through what various persons on the list do and, as best I can tell, it is a list of people who work with the IAEA Atomic and Molecular Data Unit, which is supposed “to establish and maintain internationally recommended numerical databases on atomic and molecular collision and radiative processes, atomic and molecular structure characteristics, particle-solid surface interaction processes and physico-chemical and thermo-mechanical material properties for use in fusion energy research and other plasma science and technology applications.”

In other words, these poor souls don’t have crap to do with safeguards, nuclear weapons or Israel. The IAEA has two missions: “Maximizing the contribution of nuclear technology to the world while verifying its peaceful use.”  These are technical people in the former category who help create databases of basic physical information that would be useful to countries like, oh, I don’t know, Iran.  It makes absolutely no sense to threaten, for example, a Chinese guy who builds databases over Israel’s nuclear weapons program. You might as well send a nasty note to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures complaining that we don’t know how many kilograms of plutonium Israel possesses.

The group has apparently released another message, indicating that they’ve hacked the IAEA’s Nuclear Data Services.  Next thing your know, they’ll target IAEA efforts to eradicate the Mediterranean fruit fly. This information only released to open eyes of IAEA and independent media to real threat to the Mediterranean, not the fruit fly, but Israel.

C’mon guys.  Hacking the IAEA and interfering with efforts to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes doesn’t get us any closer to a world in which Israel signs the NPT.  If you care about a Middle East without nuclear weapons, the place to start is getting the Israeli and Iranian governments to attend a conference on a regional WMD-free zone.   It’s boring, tedious and incremental step, but ultimately a lot more productive than hacking into servers.