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Canada quashes Yes Men hoax with phishing claim

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Those online pranksters known as The Yes Men may be called many things for their spoofing antics - satirists, provocateurs, major-league assholes - but phishers they're not.

Ah, but that's exactly the excuse Canada's department of the environment used to shut down two of the organization's parody website's created last month to thumb noses at the government's environmental policy during the Copenhagen climate conference.

The Yes Men created the websites December 14, which mimicked real Canadian government sites and issued fake news releases that claimed Canada had reversed its climate-change policy and set stricter goals on CO2 emissions.

It's the usual M.O. for the loosely-knit online group — which last October gave the US Chamber of Commerce a similar work-over with a faux environmental release announcement that fooled even stalwart publications like The Washington Post and The New York Times. The US government took a tack of claiming The Yes Men violated the country's copyright laws by "directly copying the images, logos, design and layout" of the Chamber of Commerce's official website.

Up north, Environment Canada convinced web service provider Serverloft to take down two fake Yes Men websites - enviro-canada.ca and ec-gc.ca - by referring to them as phishing scams.

"Environment Canada asked a German Internet service provider to take down two hoax (Environment Canada) websites because those websites infringe Environment Canada's Intellectual Property and act as phishing sites to the official department website," the department confirmed to Canada.com.

The term phishing, of course, refers to creating websites designed to look like they are from well-known, legitimate businesses for the purpose of stealing personal information, like passwords, bank account information, or credit card numbers.

The Yes Men claim Canada's government is unjustified in taking down the website without a warrant. According to the group, Serverloft responded to the government's request by blocking a range of IP-addresses used by the host PiWeb, which resulted in unplugging 4,500 web sites that were unrelated to the hoax. (Take the latter accusation with a shovel of salt, however, as the Yes Men aren't exactly above making things up to make a point).

Whether the Canadian and US government have a case against the Yes Men for violating trademark law by mimicking their websites has yet to be seen. But accusing the group of phishing to get a swifter reaction from a service provider is a trouble tactic indeed. ®

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