« Previous | Main | Next »

Cloned websites

Post categories:

X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:32 UK time, Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Now we've all heard about animal cloning. There was Dolly the sheep and the whole debate about the ethics of creating carbon copies of a living being.

But now a very different kind of cloning is becoming a serious problem, much closer to home. Or in this case - in a vet's surgery.

A year ago, Valley Vets in in Ystrad Mynach decided it was time to update and modernise it's website. Vet Robert Thomson led the project.

"We wanted our website to portray our ethos and what we try to do and achieve from a professional point of view, and just for us to be able to give some basic advice for clients' animals."

And that's exactly what the new website does - providing information on animal health. But not only did the website impress the vets customers' - it also attracted queries from companies abroad.

The emails were making enquiries about a vet they believed worked for the practice - Stanley Edwards.

Valley Vets were baffled as they'd never heard of a vet with that name working in the practice throughout its 80 year history. But a businessman in Malaysia seemed desperate to get hold of this mysterious Mr Edwards.

His first e-mail merely asked whether he worked for the practice. Then a second e-mail arrived explaining that this Mr Edwards was trying to purchase an anabolic steroid called nandrilone.

The vets investigated and discovered their website had been cloned. An identical copy had been made by someone with less than ethical motives.

The elusive Mr Edwards actually tried to buy £150,000 worth of a drug called nandrilone by pretending to be a qualified vet who belonged to the practice. To avoid detection he'd promised to pay cash on delivery in Singapore.

As vet Robert Thomson explained to Lucy, a practice like Valley Vets would only use about one small bottle of nandrilone a year, costing no more than £30. He told Lucy:

"We have a very limited use for it nowadays. It is still used on some occasions to treat small animals - cats really with kidney failure. It helps them to produce red blood cells which they are unable to do because of the kidney damage."

Lucy asked why people would therefore need to buy such large quantities of the drug.

"We can only assume it's for illegitimate use, because it is a performance enhancing drug and a anabolic steroid. Our assumptions is it's going to be sold on the black market for human use or human misuse."

To help them solve their mystery, the vets called in website designer Paul Daly. He used a tactic well-known in the online world known as "cease and desist".

As he explained: "Cease and desist is a technical term for a letter that you send to a web host company to try to close down a website." Paul sent his cease and desist message to the website provider of the fake site, based in Germany.

What the web-provider will do is investigate it, as they need to by law. Then they will try to contact the third party. That third party has so many days to respond, and if they don't respond then the web provider will close them down.

Many of us have our own websites these days to promote businesses or hobbies - so what steps can you take to check if your website's been cloned?

According to Paul you should take a sentence from your website, put it into quotation marks and then search the Internet.

If something comes back, you should then do an All Who Is? search. All Who Is? is a search tool that will give you the web hosting company, the owner of that domain name and who manages that domain name. You can contact one of those three people to close the website.

So the moral of this tale is - watch out for clones - whether you are buying, selling or browsing online - it's always worth checking that website is really what it seems.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.