Friday, January 30, 2009

Space Command Mystery Jobs

I saw an ad on Gmail for "SPACECOM" jobs, and clicked the link. It brought me to SpaceCommandCenter.com, a totally fake sci-fi website that, among other things, talks about the "Phoenix Space Elevator" being attacked by terrorist. 

That site has links to three more fake sites: GreaterAmericaNews.com, PresidentAndrewHarrison.com and SpaceElevatorClimb.com. They all make reference to the space elevator attack, by a group of terrorists calling themselves Autumn Rain. What they didn't mention was what they're advertising. I figured it must be selling a book, movie, tv show, video game or carbonated drink, and set about to find the truth.

The sites were very nicely done, so I figured somebody out there would be talking about them (and the book/movie/game they're advertising). Much to my surprise, Google searches for President Andrew Harrison, Greater America News and Space Command Center turned up nada. Huh...

So, I tried using some of my newly acquired cyber-recon skills. I read the source code for each website, but found no hidden author information. I did a whois search on the addresses, thinking I'd find out who registered the sites (I was expecting Sprite). Nope. All the sites are registered through DomainsByProxy.com, effectively masking the owner. Dang! All I found out was they were registered on 22 Jan 09, so I knew I wasn't dealing with an old site, ala I Love Bees, which was an ad for Halo 2 (back in 2004)

This just made me even more determined, and since I'm on day 3 of being snowed in, I had some time on my hands. So, back to Google and some more focused searches. I eventually found my way over to a site for sci-fi author David Williams, and his latest book The Mirrored Heavens. It's about a terrorist group called Autumn Rain and a thing called The Phoenix Space Elevator. The mass-market edition was released on Jan 27th, 2009.

Mystery solved! (but I've got to wonder - why advertise on Gmail and not have any link to the book from the fake sites?)

8 comments:

Phil said...

Dan, are you suffering from 21st century cabin fever?

Gabe said...

WHOA...you seem to a be the ultimate Cyber Sleuth!

Ben Voetberg said...

Nine inch nails did a similiar type of advertising for their Year Zero album. They left thumb drives containing tracks at their shows. They also had a alternate reality game based on the album concept. The game was made by the same company that did the "I Love Bees" for Halo 2.

I'm also a fan of the bogus html404 errors that they are now having with all the spacecom and elevator links. Seems like the sites are changing over time.

Also the career pic of the day today is of the famous AFRL DE starfire optical range at Kirkland.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for figuring it out. I found your site trying to find out more about it.

Eric said...

Same as above: I found you in the course of my own sleuthery. Glad you've already done the legwork!

It does seem odd not to link to the book more obviously, given that it's an ARG for an unknown quantity.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you guys got this ad back in January and February? I'm only seeing it for the first time now.

Yep - I'm totally going to read that book now, the marketing campaign worked really well....

Another Geek said...

I just found this site on a similar search. Saw the ad on July 21.

Cool campaign but didn't close the loop. I hope they didn't spend a bunch of money and declare it a failure!


Thanks for tracking it down.

Wade Acevedo said...

its been a couple of months, and i have just stumped on this atop a scifi web page(i refuse to misspell it) very similer to the way you did. even followed the same steps. there are now some videos on the news site and a twitter and myspace page were created, but still no mention of the books nowhere. i would venture to say that this was either created for us geeks to try and investigate it like this, than get interested in the book, or its being built up, and there trying to build viral momentum wile they expand the "universe"