Spoofed story pokes fun at Gore
Veep hijacks truckload of ballots - allegedly
A subtle method to produce spoofed news stories so that they appear to come from reputable news sources has been used to poke fun at Al Gore.
At first sight, any user pointing their browser at this site would think CNN had a world exclusive on the Vice President's attempt to hijack a truck full of ballots in a bizarre attempt to turn the US Presidential race.
Anyone receiving a link to the piece, which is doing the rounds by e-mail, might assume, as we did at first, that CNN's site had been hijacked by pranksters.
In truth a technique beloved by spammers had been applied to point users at a totally different site.
As explained in greater depth here, the weird looking address takes advantage of several things most people don't know about the structure of a valid URL.
The main trick is that anything between "http://" and "@" is completely irrelevant. So the address of the spoofed story is actually 1076628671/top_story/ - a valid IP address despite the apparent lack of dots, because it uses a format called double word which is understood by browsers, if not humans.
Incidentally, the use of the @ feature is commonly used for authentication, but if a site does not require a password, logon is automatic and thus the user notices nothing.
The idea that users can be redirected to sites that have nothing to do with what they intend is a scary one, and the technique opens the way to all kinds of abuse. Imagine that you want to indulge in a spot of ecommerce at xmasbargain.com and actually you're sending your credit card details to russianmafia.org.
We can only hope that use of the technique remains as benign as the spoofed CNN story.
For the record, the story reported that Al Gore had hijacked a truck containing disputed ballots after the US Supreme Court ruling went against him in some O.J.-esque performance.
It reported: "Al Gore has been leading 42 police cars and eight television-network helicopters on a six-hour slow-speed car chase through Florida. Sources close to the Florida department of public safety have told CNN that Al Gore is the only one in the truck and is driving with a gun pointed to his head."
Class writing that wouldn't look out of place on The Onion... ®