Cherry Point coal terminal website down over malware threat

The website for the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point is down indefinitely after a possible hack.

Attempts to reach the website using different browsers resulted in warning notices, including this one from Google Chrome:

Google’s Chrome web browser presents this security warning to people attempting to reach gatewaypacificterminal.com. This screenshot was taken shortly after 12 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 1. Ralph Schwartz THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

“The site ahead contains malware. Attackers currently on gatewaypacificterminal.com might attempt to install dangerous programs on your computer that steal or delete your information.”

A more detailed report from Google says six pages visited over the past 90 days installed malicious software on the user’s computer. Google found problems at the Gateway Pacific Terminal website most recently on Sept. 14.

“In some cases, third parties can add malicious code to legitimate sites,” the Google report gave as an explanation for why it flagged the site as a possible threat.

The website has been warning users to stay away since mid-September, said Craig Cole, spokesman for SSA Marine, the terminal’s proponent.

While the proposed terminal, which would ship up to 48 million metric tons of coal a year to Asia, has been fiercely challenged by tribal and environmental opponents, representatives of these groups said they didn’t know the website was down — never mind taking credit for the possible attack.

“I like to consider ourselves fair fighters,” said Crina Hoyer, executive director of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, a coal terminal opponent.

Cole said the company didn’t know whether Gateway Pacific Terminal was the target of an attack from an opponent.

“We have no clue what happened. We kind of know what you know; the site got flagged as having problems,” Cole said.

The website has no scheduled date for coming back online.

“I think it’s going to be a reconstruction from the ground up,” Cole said. “It’ll be an opportunity to weed out old content and refresh content.”

The website, managed by SSA Marine, was a repository of information about the terminal. The site also had material that promoted the benefits of the terminal, including the short- and long-term jobs it would create.

More objective information on the proposal is available on government websites, including eisgatewaypacificwa.gov, which is run by the three agencies overseeing an environmental review of the port: Whatcom County, the state Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The county keeps dozens of documents and thousands of public comments related to the proposed terminal online. Go to whatcomcounty.us and click on “Gateway Terminal Project.”

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BhamPolitics.