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Monday, December 18, 2006

The blogjacking menace

REGION/CYBERSCENES

Dark clouds are gathering over the local blogosphere.

First there were "splog" attacks, pieces of spam left in the comments area of local blogs. That was kids' stuff. Now it appears that at least two blogs in the western suburbs have become victims of a new, scarier menace: blogjacking.

Cyberscenes was trolling the blogosphere for interesting bits this week when I clicked my bookmark to the Food Market Index blog out of Framingham. It's not a blog I really follow that much, seeing as it tracks goings-on at the Whole Foods supermarket chain, of all things.

Had I been taking a sip of my coffee at that moment, the result would have been a classic Vaudevillian spit-take all over my 17-inch flat panel. Instead of pears and plums, I got porn. Groceries had been supplanted by genitalia.

I tried a couple of experiments -- manually typing in the URL myself, asking a colleague with cast-iron sensibilities to try it on his machine -- and confirmed that the Food Market Index URL was redirecting me to a porn site, and a particularly singe-your-retinas-graphic one at that.

A quick survey of the 40 or so blogs that I regularly check quickly found a second problem, this time with the See Todd Run blog out of Waltham. Instead of the blog, I was redirected to a generic-looking Web page supposedly touting some kind of self-actualization program that you could get more information on by clicking on a link. Right.

Stories of blogjackings are just now appearing on sites like Blogger Tips and Tricks and The Real Blogger Status, and they're not pretty. Bloggers are saying that not only have their blogs been hijacked, but that they are having a tough time getting them restored. Blog gurus are issuing advice like strengthening passwords to 15 mixed characters, but are also saying that they're not sure exactly how the blogjackers are doing it, although password hacking seems to be a strong possibility.

What's more, the attacks seem to be focused on Blogger, the nation's largest blog network, which was bought by search giant Google a while ago and which has been a focus of splog attacks as well. Both Food Market Index and See Todd Run are hosted on Blogger.

If you have any stories of blogjacking nightmares, e-mail them to me and we'll keep on top of this story.

-- Ralph Ranalli

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