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A Year Later, U.S. Government Websites Are Still Redirecting to Hardcore Porn

Dozens of U.S. government websites appear to contain a flaw enabling anyone to generate URLs with their domains that redirect users to external sites, a handy tool for criminals hoping to infect users with malware or fool them into surrendering personal information.

Gizmodo first reported a year ago that a wide variety of U.S. government sites were misconfigured, allowing porn bots to create links that redirected visitors to sites with colorful names like “HD Dog Sex Girl” and “Two Hot Russians Love Animal Porn.” Among those affected was the Justice Department’s Amber Alert site, links from which apparently redirected users to erotic material.

Following Gizmodo’s report, a handful of government offices changed their settings to address the problem. The problem persists, unfortunately, and several new websites appear to be affected. While it appears that mostly porn bots are taking advantage of these poorly configured sites, it also poses a serious security concern.

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The ability to generate malicious links that appear to lead to actual government websites can be a handy pretense for criminals conducting phishing campaigns. What’s more, these malicious redirects may be used to send users to websites masquerading as official government services, encouraging them to hand over personal information, such as names, addresses, and Social Security numbers.

Last week, for example, StateScoop reported that a foreign hacker had set up phony versions of local government sites throughout the U.S. with the aim of stealing information from small and medium-sized businesses. The websites impersonated included those belonging to government officials in San Mateo, California; Tampa, Florida; North Las Vegas, Nevada; and Dallas County, Texas.

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