Collective Sleuthing, Neighborhood Style
Community listservs are a fabulous window onto neighborhood disputes, a nifty way to publicize a yard sale or strike back at a lousy contractor--and they let people band together to find facts in an effective and quick manner.
Check out what the readers of the Tenleytown community bulletin board in Northwest D.C. managed to do in just a few hours the other day after one of their number discovered that a classic Internet bank scam was operating via a website named for the neighborhood of American University Park:
someone is sending scam e-mails that indicate that there is a bank scam operating via the aupark.org website:
An hour and a half later, neighborhood cybersleuths were coming up with answers:
aupark.org is owned by a local lawyer. I found his name by going to Network Solutions web-site and running a whois on aupark.org. Probably what is going on is the spammer is either spoofing addresses
or has a robot that has been able to exploit the aupark.org web server.
Minutes later, more details came pouring out:
There are 16 domains which are listed by Domain Tools as being hosted on the same IP address that Fred noted: aupark.com, aupark.org, cybersquattinglaws.info, domaindisputes.info, domainnamecounsel.com, eloquence.info, ibusinesslaw.info, ibusinesslawyers.com, ilitigator.com, ilitigators.com, leah.info, predictably.com, tenleytown.com, tenleytown.info, trademarklaws.info, werenotyourgutter.com
And just three hours after that, the local lawyer who appeared to be the cause of the phishing scam was online himself, explaining that he was actually the victim--indeed, his account had been hacked. He apologized for any inconvenience and offered the fascinating possibility that "a local person with an agenda hacked the site."
AUPark.org is owned by a local lawyer that is a member of this group, in fact -- me. Apologies to anybody who received the scam e-mails. My account was hacked. I've removed what I believe are all the trojan files from the server and updated the application where the rogue files were placed. I've also asked my web host to help me figure out what vulnerability was exploited. The website addresses a contentious issue in the AU Park / Tenleytown area, and the fact that so many local individuals received the scam e-mails suggests that a local person with an agenda hacked the site, which is sad indeed. None of this group members' e-mail addresses would be on the server, or, indeed, on my computer at home, as I read posts on the web. Please do not hesitate to contact me if anything like this happens again. -- Jon
Pretty cool--In a single afternoon, someone put out word of the mystery, several neighbors jumped in with gratis research, and the apparent culprit came forward and made it clear that he was merely the victim of an Internet scam.
And, as it turns out, aupark.org is a window onto another little neighborhood dispute that happens to be one of the more interesting ones in the region--whether a major east-west collector street should be blocked off to make its residents happy and reduce traffic. It's a fascinating look at how the barricading of a single intersection can set off ripples of congestion (and anger) for many blocks around.
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Posted by: CPGrrl | May 31, 2006 10:18 AM
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