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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Church name used by sex site
The Church in Wales is investigating after a net saboteur lured church website visitors to a New York stripper's web cam.

Visitors to a site with a copycat name including the words Church In Wales found themselves visiting a stripper's live web cam responsible for the hi-tech hijack.


The internet is entirely unregulated and anarchy is part of its nature - there is little we can do

Son Brynach, Church In Wales spokesman, reacts to discovery
Instead of latest news from local parishes and the archbishop's Easter message, people were greeted by a scantily-clad teenager engaged in a series of provocative poses.

Malicious exhibitionists used an address similar to the church's official destination - which has been unaffected - as an advert for North American web-cam network, iFriends.

The church had registered churchinwales.org.uk, but had left the American alternative, churchinwales.org, free to be exploited.

Provocative page

On the page, the young woman strikes a provocative pose and says: "I am 19 and currently a student in New York City. I like to show off on my web cam at iFriends."

Customers must enter credit card details for age verification, however.

Church leaders' blushes have now been spared after internet service provider Nildram fixed the problem.

Records show Tina's site belongs to a Quebec internet firm, CyberActif, and was launched last July by Christian Francoeur.

But the organisation has said it is helpless to take control of the rival address and has resigned itself to Tina's continued self-promotion.

"The internet is entirely unregulated and anarchy is part of its nature," said Church In Wales spokesperson Son Brynach.

Snapshot
Users saw salacious pictures instead of sermons
"We could spend thousands buying up permutations of our domain name in the US, Australia and New Zealand and still not solve the problem.

"The next day someone could set up a site called 'thechurchinwales' and we'd be back to square one.

"We don't think that would be a sensible use of the church's money. There is little we can do against this individual."

UK domain registration authority Nominet said the church should use the arbitration procedure for domain name disputes at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

Video voyeurs

It is unclear how many church fans have mistakenly been greeted by the racy material.

The attack appeared to be carried out by the same team responsible for hacking visitors away from the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund site in December 2001.


Few people running websites really know what they are doing and are not aware

Bill Thompson, internet consultant
The web is littered with several identical website promotions for Tina's Web Cam, all linking through to girls' performances on iFriends, the "intimate friends network."

Formed on Valentine's Day 1998, the San Francisco company is one of the world's biggest video chat communities, with 50,000 claimed "personal broadcasting" stars and two million registered viewers.

Viewers use iFriends to talk face-to-face with relatives as well as hold business meetings and live pornographic sessions for big audiences.

Internet consultant and journalist Bill Thompson told BBC News Online: "Lots of these porn and gambling sites look out for legitimate sites and buy them up straight away.

"Web servers can be exploited by people with some technical skill.

"Very few people running websites really know what they are doing and they are not aware of the security issues."

See also:

28 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Hackers 'branded as terrorists'
17 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
FBI warns of surge in hacking
07 Mar 01 | Middle East
Hamas hit by porn attack
03 Nov 00 | Middle East
Israel lobby group hacked
10 Oct 01 | Americas
US names cyber-terrorism czar
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