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The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) maintains a number of databases of samples and viral sequences.

DRASTIC (Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating COVID-19) area team of sem-anonymous, (self-described) "Twitter detectives" who research and write papers about the origin of SARS-CoV-2.

In February 2021, Billy Bostickson and Gilles Demaneuf from DRASTIC published An investigation into the WIV databases that were taken offline, claiming that the batvirus database (which included bat and rodent virus samples) was made inaccessible to external access on 12th Sept 2019

  • In Dec 2020, Pr. Shi Zhengli explained in a BBC interview that access to the DB was stopped to prevent cyber security attacks.

  • On the 26th January 2021, Pr.Shi Zhengli confirmed again that the database has been taken offline ‘during Covid-19 pandemic’ in an email answer to Tommy Cleary.

  • On the 10th March 2021, during a Chatham House interview, Peter Daszak repeated the exact reason given by Shi Zhengli in her email to Tommy Cleary above.

  • These three statements do not make any sense since the main database was taken offline on the 12 Sep 2019, 3 months at least before the official start of the pandemic. So either the reason given for taking the database off is not correct (which raises more questions), or the statement points at an outbreak in Sep 2019.

Did the "batvirus" dabatase of the WIV get taken permanently off-line on September 12th 2019? Did Shi Zhengli from the WIV claim that it went down during the pandemic because of cyberattacks?

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    There is no contradiction here. The database might've been taken down due to cyberattacks prior to the pandemic, and also been down during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most likely sequence of events is that it was taken down when it was noticed that it was insecure, and that work to secure or replace it was delayed by the pandemic.
    – antlersoft
    Jun 20, 2021 at 16:59
  • @antlersoft : Computers that are connected to the internet are generally insecure if you have information that's of high interest to nationstates. If the NSA/CIA did their job properly there was some moment in time where hacking the WIV to find out what's going on over there was what they are supposed to do. Them having information about the amount of cellphone traffic within the the WIV in october is the first information we know they had about their activities. (The EcoHealth alliance was asked to explain the reduced cellphone traffic)
    – Christian
    Jun 21, 2021 at 8:45
  • @Christian: That last comment contains a lot of speculation.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 21, 2021 at 20:30
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    1) This paper wasn't "published" anywhere. It's tagged as "preprint." 2) Researchgate is pretty much a crap site and not reliable. 3) There is no contradiction, according to this preprint - " It was online intermittently after this date from mid-December 2019, and occasionally until February 2020, but was not accessed from outside of the WIV after 12 September 2019" - wouldn't Zengli have password and within-WIV access to the database, meaning, as far as that person is concerned, it was not offline? Jun 22, 2021 at 13:57
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    @Oddthinking : What do you think is speculation? It's generally accepted that computers without airgap aren't secure against nation state attackers. The idea that it's the job of NSA/CIA to gather intelligence that's important for US interests in time of crisis? What do you think is their job about?
    – Christian
    Jun 22, 2021 at 18:23

1 Answer 1

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Dr. Shi's own answer to the BBC says that the database was taken offline. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-55364445. So we can take that as confirmed. The "cyberattacks" explanation is certainly interesting. The removal of the databases is part of a pattern of information-hiding by China in relation to COVID-19. Dr. Shi's answer suggests that this pattern coincidentally began on Sept. 12, 2019, before the outbreak.

The logical alternative explanation is that something went wrong in a Wuhan lab sometime before Sept. 12, and the database deletion was an early stage of a cover up.

I am the author of an e-book that goes into the cover-up explanation. Not sure if I'm allowed to link to it, so I won't.

EDIT: Here is the evidence, straight from the DRASTIC/osint paper, that it was taken offline between 2am and 3am on Sept. 12. https://archive.md/AGtFv According to both the DRASTIC/osint paper, and a native Chinese speaker I checked with, the screenshot shows a database monitoring system that checked database access every hour. After 3am on Sept. 12, it failed to get access.

Now, why is that suspicious? First of all, as the DRASTIC/osint paper shows, the database had been used regularly by Dr. Shi's colleagues. Secondly, consider its description https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DGdwLHclikurZ4JzYjff9751197ei_bU/view, which I will append at the end of this answer. Thirdly, as the DRASTIC/osint paper shows, this was one of a series of 16 databases to support a longstanding series of research projects, all of which were taken offline.

Lastly, this was the first of a series of actions to hide information about the pandemic. This information hiding is now official Chinese policy, as sown by inadvertently released documents https://apnews.com/article/united-nations-coronavirus-pandemic-china-only-on-ap-bats-24fbadc58cee3a40bca2ddf7a14d2955. This pattern of information hiding began on or before Sept. 12.

The removal of access to the database obviously has the effect of hiding information that is relevant to understanding the origin of the pandemic. So you can believe that this was a response to cyber attacks, and the timing was coincidental. Or you can believe that the pattern of information hiding has a single cause, and the cause began before Sept. 12, 2019.

Database description: (English translation)
Abstract: Cross-species infection of wild animal-derived viruses is one of the main causes of new virulent infectious diseases in humans. Therefore, it is necessary to systematically collect and sort wild animal samples and viral pathogen data, and build a wild animal-borne virus pathogen database. Through the establishment of standard metadata description specifications, this database has collected and processed more than 20,000 animal samples and virus data from bats and mice. The data covers multiple countries and multiple provinces, cities and regions in China. It can be used for related wildlife Domestic and foreign research institutions and institutions of higher learning related to viral pathogens provide services. Users can search for the species, sample types, species distribution, etc. of bats and mice according to their own needs, or search for information about specific viruses carried by species. The construction of this database will facilitate in-depth and systematic research on viruses carried by wild animals such as bats and mice, assess the risk of viruses spreading to domestic animals and humans, predict hot spots of emerging infectious diseases, and provide theoretical foundation and technical support for disease prevention and control.

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    Welcome to Skeptics! The phrase "logical alternative explanation" is doing a lot of work here. It requires a set of priors that don't appear to be justified. If you are an expert, then linking to your sources should be easy enough. If the answer requires a book-length explanation, we should close it as too broad.
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 17, 2021 at 4:00
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    You appear to have restated what was already in the question with an added link to what the question was referring: that would have made a great comment which you've the rep to post if you want to. The second part, whilst not necessarily incorrect, as it stands would have also been better as a comment. By all means add a link to your book, the place for that wouldn't be in an answer (and would be off-topic as your own research), but in your profile here it'd be fine. Dec 17, 2021 at 4:10

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