Remember the 13th? Why?

Contributed by
Oct 4, 2013, 12:32 PM EDT

[UPDATE (Oct. 4 at 21:00 UTC): WARNING: The site discussed below may be a scam, used by a company for phishing, a way to collect email addresses from people to sell to spammers. The site Android Malware Dump has the scoop. DO NOT ENTER YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS AT THAT SITE! In fact, don't even visit the site; I've removed all links to it to be safe. Thanks to my friend James Kerwin for letting me know.]

I’m getting a lot of tweets and emails asking me about a mysterious website that’s popped up in the last few days. Called “Remember the 13th”, it purports to have huge news from NASA it will reveal:

“The biggest discovery that will shake the Earth, it will never be the same again. [sic]”

A lot of folks are assuming this is an official NASA webpage, because it uses the NASA logo, and says, “NASA has made a historic discovery that will shake the entire planet.” But note that nowhere on the page does it actually say it’s an official NASA page.

The one thing we can know for sure is that this is not an official NASA site. Being a government agency, NASA has to follow certain rules about websites, and this one has a few key indicators it’s not legit:

  • Official NASA sites are all part of the network, and this one isn’t.      
  • WHOIS reports it’s registered through Panama. Hello. [UPDATE (Oct. 4 at 18:00 UTC): The actual ownership of the site is hidden using an anonymizing service, and it's that service that reports the site is in Panama. But NASA would never use a service like this, so the argument stands.]
  • Official NASA sites don’t use the “.com” top-level domain.
  • All NASA sites are inaccessible right now due to the government shutdown.

Any one of those is enough to show this ain’t NASA.

Also, NASA isn’t coy like this. Understated, maybe, but not coy. If they had a big announcement, they would send out a press release first. It would go to journalists and others signed up for their news service. That's their usual modus operandi, which they’ve always done when they’ve had major news.

Also—and this is just my opinion— if it were an official NASA announcement, the grammar would be a touch better. “So whats [sic] that all about?”, “It will be a day to remember and One [sic] for the history books,” and so on.

Clearly, this is really just some sort of viral marketing attempt (which, just as clearly, is working well). Stuff like this has been done before to advertise movies; the steaming pile of cellulose “2012” did it with a series of ads for the fictional “Institute of Human Continuity”, for example. I poked around the web looking for any movie premieres on November 13 but didn’t see anything obvious (the “Hunger Games” sequel, “Catching Fire”, premieres that day in London, but seems unrelated). Also, the page says they moved the announcement date up to October 6, so it doesn’t seem like this would be a movie release.

Bottom line, I don’t think there’s enough information here to really know. I’ve seen guesses that it’s for a game release, or it’s an email hacking scam. Those are as good guesses as any. I would bet a lot of money this has nothing to actually do with NASA, unless it’s a crackpot claiming to have found life somewhere (there are links on the page to the Mars Curiosity rover, for example). It’s almost certainly a publicity stunt. If so, it may be a mistake; people tend not to like being fooled, or being played for one. A marketing campaign like this could easily backfire.

Anyway, we’ll see soon enough. October 6 is this Sunday.