— “None of this surprises me. Every one of my accounts including my IRS account has been hacked,” said former mayor of Atlanta Shirley Franklin
This is an addendum to a recent story I co-bylined with BuzzFeed News media editor Craig Silverman (click here to read). Our story — about online marketers who sell links from hacked sites in order to game Google search results — included an investigation of Russia’s Sape.ru, a major player in the hacked links industry.
Here are some notable sites found in Sape’s database that weren’t included in our story. I’ll continue to add sites as I find them.
An offshoot of The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. No Sape links were found on this site. The site’s editors did not reply to requests for comment.
The online home of VVA Veteran, a magazine published by the U.S. government-chartered Vietnam Veterans of America. A review of the site found links to sites advertising replica watches and online gambling. It appears that an online marketer bought over and plagiarised the site’s content after VVA dropped the domain in 2014. Asked to comment, VVA’s chief investigator Kristofer Goldsmith confirmed that VVA no longer owns the site.
“VVA’s brand is often exploited because over the decades it’s become a trusted source for information and opportunities for veterans,” Goldsmith explained.
Official site of the Bill Clinton-endorsed UK children’s charity, founded in 2005 by namesake Maria Conceição. A review of the site found links to online product reviews. Conceição did not return multiple requests for comment.
The personal website of the former mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. A review of the site found links to sites advertising an electric spice grinder and “MILF Porn.” Asked to comment, Franklin said:
None of this surprises me. Every one of my accounts including my IRS account has been hacked. No one tells you to expect such, when you run for office or share your email address and phone number with 7000 APS seniors over 5 years as you help them with college planning or answer hundreds of your own emails as an elected official. Your name gets around.
It’s unclear whether or not Franklin currently owns the site.
Official website of the Oklahoma-based Native American tribe of the same name. A review of the site found links to sites promoting online gaming, testosterone boosters, and car insurance deals. The site did not reply to requests for comments.
Promotional site for the British comedienne and QI presenter of the same name. No Sape links were found on this site. Unable to reach Toksvig for comment.
Official site of the British comedian of the same name. No Sape links were found on this site. Unable to reach Henry for comment.
An online meeting place for “low and no-income women” from Battle Creek, Michigan. After appearing on the Sape network, pages on the site were visibly bombarded with lines of code, including numerous direct references to “$sape_links.”
The site did not return multiple requests for comment, although the code was subsequently removed.
Online feminist newsletter founded by the late Mahsa Shekarloo, an Iranian women’s rights activist. A review of the site found links to sites advertising online gambling and betting apps. It’s unclear who currently owns the site.
Official site for Arkansas-based rape crisis center. A review of the site found links to one site selling wireless headphones and another site for reporting Russian and Ukrainian dating scams. The site’s executive director did not return a request for comment. It’s unclear who currently owns the site.