U.S. Government Website Hacked by International Pill Pushers – SI Exclusive

  • Comments: 2
  • Written on: March 4th, 2007

Tonight I received a spam post on our customer support forum that I normally would have deleted and forgotten about, but this one was different. It was the usual pill-pushing post with a couple dozen links. But these links went back to a .gov website – a highly unusual occurrence for this kind of scheme.

The U.S. government might have a serious security breech on the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website.

It appears that either an authorized agent of the NOAA or a hacker has infiltrated the website and used that access to plant more than 70 pages about the prescription drug Soma – a muscle relaxer.

The pages can be found at http://www.cmdl.noaa.gov/hotitems/soma/.

All of the pages are interlinked to cross promote each other and reap the benefits that a .gov backlink offers to those trying to come out on top of search results in search engines like Google.


The pages are also littered with pay-per-click ads. The ad banners appear to be coming from http://wizardrules.com, a London-based advertising network. The advertisements appear to have Russian (or at least what appears to be Russian to my untrained linguistic eye) text on them.

The advertisement script is viewable in the source code, and could be used as a method to track the webpages back to the individual expecting payment for clicks on the advertisements.

The var ad_key in the page source code may be a publisher ID that could be used by the ad network to ensure that clicks on the advertisement are credited to the individual responsible for them. It is conceivable that the ad network would be able to identify the party responsible for the advertisements on these pages using that ID.

In the world of search engine optimization, the fastest way to elevate your website’s ranking in search engines like Google is to obtain as many “backlinks” as possible. A backlink is a link to your website that is posted on another website. These links have varying degrees of value, based on where they appear, how long they have been there, and how they are formed.

Backlinks from .gov websites are highly coveted, as it is rumored that Google treats these links as “solid gold” because only official government websites located within the U.S. are allowed to have a .gov suffix.

In case the pages are removed after this post, you can view screen shots here:

Screen Shot of NOAA Soma Pages
Screen Shot of NOAA Soma Page Source Code
Screen Shot of NOAA Soma Web Page

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  1. Josh the Aspie said on March 6th, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    With the rash of hacks on various government websites, this adds to the concern.

    Out of curiosity, are back links worth more the longer they have been there? Or are fresher back links worth more?

  2. […] example, my blog was ranked 1,700,000th on the Internet until I found an overseas pill-pusher posting pages on the NOAA.gov website and broke the story to the blogosphere. Overnight ZDnet picked up the story and my blog rocketed to […]

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