News

This Morning’s Google Alert Spam Deluge Brought to You by the US Department of State

As I have mentioned before, I have many, many Google Alerts. And I get, regularly, spam in those Google Alerts.

Usually it’s from a university which is inadvertently showing spammy advertising or something like that. I used to e-mail them with a heads-up, but as I almost never got a response, I gave up. It’s not for me to try to monitor their Web sites.

This morning, though, I got an unusual deluge – and it was from a US Department of State Web site. Ugh.

More specifically, https://careers.state.gov . When I opened my Google Alerts e-mail, I got several pages of alerts that looked like this:

screenshot 2017 04 02 at 7 42 19 am

The URLs from these pages resolved to something like this (and I don’t recommend you click on this.)

https://careers.state.gov/discussion/topic/hack-minecraft-tool-generator-no-download/

I wanted to see how much of this spam was on careers.state.gov, so I ran this search in Google:

site:careers.state.gov intitle:hack

It actually wasn’t too bad – about 20 results.

screenshot 2017 04 02 at 7 56 32 am

Even better, I could look at a cache of one of the pages, so I did:

screenshot 2017 04 02 at 7 57 57 am

Okay, so this is not a hack. This is a “someone got in the discussion forums and went nuts.” That made me feel a little safer about poking around, so I went to the top level of the discussion forum.

Oh dear.

screenshot 2017 04 02 at 8 00 30 am

I decided to page through the discussion forums so I could see where this started (and man, is it slow. And I don’t think it’s my Internet.)

I got through 30 pages of this particular forum and gave up.

screenshot 2017 04 02 at 8 20 14 am

Again, this does not look like anything but a garden variety spam wave. I did e-mail the Webmaster for the site  – this is rotten thing to happen to anybody over a weekend – and hopefully they can take care of it quickly.

In the meantime be prepared for some spam weirdness if you monitor .gov sites with Google Alerts, and if you have occasion to go to careers.state.gov be aware that it is very, very slow.

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