IRISH WEB SITES
Report on the publication of Racist, Pornographic and other offensive material on
The Internet means something different to the person who use’s it, what they use it for
and what they want to achieve by using the technology.
Initially the Internet was seen as a means of Communication, predominantly using e-
mail. This was a mechanism that meant that people were able to communicate with
each other and share information in a new way, such as sharing documents, images,
and other media.
As the number of people using the Internet grew so did the Internet and its uses with
the expansion of its uses to aid research and the emergence of Newsgroups, List
Serves, Information Services, and Government, Corporate and Educational Internet
Following on was the use of general publishing to the internet to aid in general
advertising to sites allowing for financial transactions like online payments as well as
Throughout the relatively short history of the Internet a more sinister undercurrent has
being prevalent, that of a destructive and undesirable nature of viruses, hacking, and
unsuitable content being spread across unsuspecting users of the technology.
It seems to be a common Human trait to exploit a weakness whether this is in another
human being, or a resource. This is a trait that has being part and parcel of the
emergence of the human race as the dominant species and the Internet has not escaped
this fundamental human peculiarity. THE ISSUE
As more and more people use the Internet for their particular reasons, the value of the
Internet has increased and people’s reliance on it has also increased, so much so that
the next stage of the Internet could be the emergence of a new society which has its
own Laws, Values and morality.
Therein is the problem, the value of the Internet. How do you measure the value of the
The value of the Internet is measured by the amount of people who use it, whether it
is by businesses, Governments, or individuals. The more traffic the more successful
the Internet is becoming. There is no doubt that we have a long way to go before the
Internet is at saturation point, and by today’s standards has reached its potential value.
However Internet Marketing or putting a value on a specific Web site is measured by
the amount of members that have registered, or the amount of Hits a particular Web
site receives. This is an unsafe and inaccurate measurement as it does not reflect the
actual number of visitors a Web site receives. Even using Actual Visitors is not truly
accurate as many visitors can share an IP address which is the mechanism for
estimating the total. It is however the only way to estimate a site’s popularity and is
currently the only way to estimate the success/failure of a Web site and is used to
calculate the monetary value of a site, or will dictate the advertising rates a Web site can charge. Due to this flaw many unscrupulous individuals/companies have used this weakness to exploit and manipulate their current value by falsifying their own popularity statistics, which is currently very difficult to verify. Today some individuals/companies who are apparently trying to raise their value by falsifying their Web site popularity statistics using other Web sites to raise their site hits by placing imbedded images and links to content which under normal circumstances would have no reason to be associated with the site they appear on and have being placed there without the permission nor the awareness of the individual/company who operates/runs the Web site. In Ireland today there are hundreds of Web sites that are being exploited in such a manner by individuals/companies who are predominantly involved in Pornography and or Prescription Drug distribution, but not excluding the spread of Viruses, as well as Bank and Credit Card Fraud. Over a period of three month the Author of this document has uncovered a serious misuse of Irish Web sites, but this is not specifically an Irish problem, however for the purpose of this document we will concentrate on Irish Web sites. For the most part all the Web sites which were found have being using some sort of Open Source Software, i.e. Forums, Guestbooks and Blogs, etc. This indicates that the people who are utilising these suites have done so to either cut costs or do not have the technical ability or resources to develop an alternative solution. Further to this they have either abandoned or neglected to keep the software up-to-date. For example one Web site which was connected to the Financial Services in Ireland had an Online Forum in operation, it was obvious that this particular company was unaware of its status of operation, and as it did not have a link to it from their Web site was oblivious of its use. However before this company was informed of the existence of this Forum the site was receiving over 300,000 hits per month, and since the Forum was removed the hits have now dropped to just over 30,000. During the height of its usage the Forum was used to advertise Pornography of an extreme nature advertising sexual acts such as “Rape Sex, Anal Sex, an in some circumstances Sex with Children”. This indicates that the people who are using such Forums are very much aware of how the Internet Search Engines work, and are using the Search Engines to assist them in spreading their particular services by using “Key Words”. Other Web sites that were uncovered during the three months of research are Web sites run by a Local County Council who provides a service to local organisation whereby they are given a Web site which they themselves run. However the Software being used is Open Source and currently not fit for purpose as it has not being upgraded to assist in stemming the rising tide of Web site Spamming. One of the Web sites held on the Local Authorities Web Server has a Guest Book with over 106,300 entries, with an average of 10 links per entry to Web sites advertising “Viagra Online, Diet Pills, Online Gambling, sexy young naked girls, death sex and many more topics.
When you consider that this Local Authority also provide over 100 such services to
other organisations such as Residents Associations, Sporting groups, youth
organisations and others the potential of the problem is greatly exasperated and the
potential for multiples of millions of links to potential content that could cause serious
social as well as health problems is apparent.
Due to the amount of Web sites uncovered by the Author, it is not possible to go
through each individual site, but to summarise the types of sites being affected have
being Third Level Institutions, Community, Health, Charitable Organisations, as well
as businesses, and individuals providing services which have the potential to allow the
posting of content which has no place or reason to be present on the Web site it
It has also being uncovered that a major Irish Internet Company who uses
OpenSource as the basis of its services is riddled with questionable content some of
which may even be illegal. This Company provides Search Engine services, Blogs ad
Forum services and in all cases the Software being used has being exploited to allow
the posting of material that could be construed as objectionable. WHAT HAS BEING DONE SO FAR
Following the initial discovery of this type of practice on May 14, 2007 the Author
has contacted the hotline.ie set up to combat illegal child pornography on the Internet,
all the Political Parties, as well as a number of individual politicians.
To-date I have received only a few replies and most of the replies are to tell me to
contact another department or organisation, which has already been contacted. So the
Author of this document is at a stage where there is no other option but to go public as
the Department of Justice has to the most part ignored the initial findings as to have
the Department of Communications.
Also a few Web site operators were notified of the problem, and subsequently despite
being asked to provide the data for analysis prior to deleting it have not adhered to the
request. On another Web site run by a Student Union they deleted all the content, but
subsequent checks have revealed that the problem has re-occurred and the posting of
obscene and objectionable content is preceding unchecked once more.
Another Web site owner when confronted with the problem just cut off
communications and several days following the revelation that his Web site was being
used to post links and obscene sexual images on a site which is related to the Game
Console Wii and would be used mostly by young teenagers still allows the posting of
this type of content to it.
Another Web site for an Irish Band was contacted to inform them of the abuse their
Web site was receiving but after a number of days no reply has being received and the
In all cases the Author has asked for a backup of the data in its raw form which may
be from a Database, or a Flat ASCII file so that further analysis can be carried out as
the Author suspects that the majority of this content is being posted by few
individuals/companies and may even be using some sort of Automation Software to
post the information on a Scheduled basis, software usually used in Automated
Testing which allows for pre-defined routines to be run on numerous Web sites
without the intervention of a human.
By using limited resources and technology the Author of this document has noticed
that a major contributor of this type of abuse has Web sites apparently registered in
the Netherlands, however other content has being traced back to Countries such as
Russia, Panama, the USA, Germany and others.
It is important to note that the Author of this document is although working from
factual information has had to make some assumptions which without further study
can not be substantiated. STILL TO DO
Due to the amount of Web sites, i.e. in excess of 300 and the amount of data that is
generally available a more indebt study would be required. This would mean
analysing the type of abuse being afforded by a particular Web site and how it is
being carried out, for example, simple posting of links, images, or a type of Hack
whereby the core software is being manipulated in some way using tactics such as
Script Injection, SQL Injection, etc.
From there the data would then be analysed to extract key pieces of information such
as email addresses, Web site URL’s which can then be traced to ascertain their origin.
There would also be a need to access the Software being used to see whether the issue
is being caused by an incorrect configuration or if there is neglect by the Web site
owner in administrating the software in use.
As some of the links found advertise links to content deemed illegal, i.e. Child
Pornography, a Legal opinion would also be required to evaluate the extent and
liability of such content.
In total there is a lot of further study required and would require a team of
professionals working on the research for circa 6 months to be able to fully
understand the extent of the problem and provide a detailed and factually accurate
report on the issue at hand. THE SOLUTION
It is painfully apparent that there is single and easily implemented solution to this
particular problem, however with a combination of simple and effective measurers at
least 90% of this type of practice can be eliminated in a relatively short timeframe. Upgrading of Software being used.
By keeping Software up-to-date, especially OpenSource Software will greatly
increase the chances of being subjected to this type of abuse.
Use of Software that is Fit-for-Purpose
As in all implementations of Software, it is important that the Software being used is
fit-for-purpose and is implemented in a manner that is described by the provider of the
Software. Monitoring of Web site usage
Vitally important is the constant monitoring of the Web site and its usage, this means
that the Web site should be checked at least once a day to make sure that the content
is not of a type that may cause offence to potential visitors. Education Programme
It has become apparent that most of the Web sites uncovered during the course of the
research are being run by or set up on behalf of people who really do not understand
the technology and the way in which the services which they themselves offer can be
abused if not monitored correctly.
The education programme would be structured to educate people to the potential
issues relating to running a Web site today, and also how to monitor their Web sites
Most Web site owners will have a Terms of Conditions which omit them from any
responsibility for the content, however when the content is obviously offensive or has
a potential danger associated with it, and this content is available for days, weeks
month and in some cases even years then some liability should be levied against the
Web site Owner. This may require Legislation, as the Self Regulation currently in
operation is clearly not working; this is in particular when dealing with ISP’s. CONCLUSION
In recent years we have read some horrifying stories about Paedophiles using the
technology to spread their sick images, videos, and stories. We also have seen people
becoming desensitised about Pornography and taking it as a necessary evil that is part
and parcel of the Internet, also with the emergence of Web sites such as YouTube and
Bebo we have seen an increase in violent, idiotic and downright criminal activity
being videoed and put on Web sites such as the a/m in what can only be described as
an individuals attempt to impress and give them a sense of fame or infamously.
If action is not taken soon, our society will ultimately suffer as a result due to the
increase of Sexual Crimes which have being linked directly to the availability of
Sexual Content on the Internet, and the increased occurrence of bullying due to the
apparent anonymous nature of the Internet.
So to measure the extent of the problem, there would be a need for a body or company
to have the authority to access the raw data both of the offending content as well as
the Web site Logs so that a thorough analysis could be carried out. This would require full cooperation from the Web site operators/owners and full disclosure of the content. There would also be a need a nationwide awareness campaign to highlight the issue and educate the people in how to combat such occurrences, as well as stricter regulation levied upon ISP’s to take steps on carrying out more rigours monitoring of sites they host.
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