LONDON — School and government websites in the UK have been hacked to redirect users to porn sites, according to new British research.
The Telegraph newspaper reports hundreds of public websites have been targeted, including the domains of primary schools, universities and groups such as the Driving Standards Association and various local government websites, such as the Historic Scotland heritage site.
The study said the hacking was not uniform, in creating links to material not suitable for minors on various Web pages. In some cases, these links appear on home pages, while in other cases, were buried within the site, such as Cardiff High School in Wales, which found itself with porn links in its calendar section. However, a school spokesperson said the hacking was "spotted quickly, with security measures put in place."
The research from Backup Technology and digital agency, Branded 3 said hackers added the links to boost traffic for adult content sites that range from hardcore porn to sexual aids like Viagra. Some of these sites in turn, were discovered to be fronts for the installation of viruses or malware to steal user information.
According to the study, more than 30 school and university sites ending with an ".ac.uk" domain were infected with link codes that could direct children away from a safe school site to a third-party site owned by the hacker.
Also hacked were some ".gov.uk" sites and the damage was viewable in Google search results that correlated those government sites to hacker's Viagra sites.
A government spokesperson from the Home Office said it is policy "neither to confirm nor deny if an individual organization has been the subject of an attack nor to speculate on the possible origins of such attacks."
A Google spokesperson told The Telegraph that unfortunately, it is not uncommon for sites to be infested without a webmaster's knowledge. Google and the firms conducting the study suggested all sites with such concerns and especially sites already found to be infected need a thorough security update and review of systems.
Google also has noted a partnership with StopBadware.org, which is devoted to battling malware.