Government Data Website Swamped By 'Monumental' Spam Attack

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A government website has been almost overwhelmed after a "monumental" attack by spammers attempting to sell counterfeit goods.

The data.gov.uk website, intended to "open up government" and share statistics with the public, has become a favourite destination for bots and spammers who post messages in its forums and comment sections.

The messages frequently include links to websites with apparently counterfeit goods for sale.

On the site's 'General Discussion' forum five of the top six posts were attempts by spammers to sell NFL jerseys.

In a blog post on the website, Antonio Acuna, head of data.gov.uk, said the team was attempting to deal with the problem - which they claim is "not uncommon". But they have also frozen posting on the site until they can fix the issue.

"We are well on top of the situation and are working not only to stop it from occurring again but also to clean up those entries," Acuna's blog says.

"As many will know, this is not a uncommon problem for sites where commenting is allowed."

spam

Above: some of the spam text seen on the site.

The website's admins say that the messages are probably being posted by humans rather than automated spammers or 'bots'. They say cheap foreign labour may be being employed to leave the messages around the site

"This, of course, is not new, spam companies are increasingly hiring cheap labour where the spambot captures the captcha image and this is sent to 'workers' that provide the correct interpretation, opening the way for the spambot to post freely," he said.

"They can put out an amazing amount of content out on forums and comment sections, combine them both and you have a monumental situation."