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UK government transport website caught showing porn

One of the websites of the UK Department for Transport (DfT) was caught serving porn today.

The particular DfT subdomain behind the mishap, on most days, provides vital DfT statistics for the public and the department’s business plan.

A very British thanksgiving

The UK DfT’s charts.dft.gov.uk website was seen serving porn today, as confirmed by BleepingComputer.

In the past, the Charts subdomain has provided business plan documents and important statistics on various DfT services such as numbers on public transport utilization, roadway accessibility times, and driving tests.

Although the site is no longer reachable, as of a few hours ago, visiting charts.dft.gov.uk paved the way for some racy traffic:  

UK gov DfT subdomain serving porn
UK gov DfT subdomain caught serving porn (BleepingComputer)

The mishap was first spotted by The Crow, which additionally observed that the entire dft.gov.uk domain was itself made to redirect to a WordPress plugin page, while the Department appeared to investigate the issue.

In our tests, BleepingComputer observed the official dft.gov.uk website led to a password-protected WordPress page living at: eu-hauliers.dft.gov.uk.

Dft-gov-uk needs password
The entire dft.gov.uk redirected to a password-protected WordPress page earlier today (BleepingComputer)

The dangling… DNS 

Although the exact cause of the Charts mini-site serving porn is not known, it appears the subdomain did have a CNAME DNS record pointing to an Amazon S3 instance.

The offending (NSFW) instance is still up at charts.dft.gov.uk.s3-website-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com, showing illicit content. Fortunately, charts.dft.gov.uk no longer leads there.

What remains unclear is, if this was simply a case of domain hijacking—that is, a dangling AWS S3 instance that the Charts site pointed to, was claimed by a threat actor and made to serve adult content, or did an attacker obtain enough access to DfT’s registrar’s systems and changed the DNS entry for charts.dft.gov.uk.

The second scenario is more challenging to pull off and would raise some serious questions on how secure the DfT’s digital infrastructure is.

This isn’t the first time a government website was caught serving explicit content either.

In September this year, U.S. government websites were spammed with viagra ads and adult content after attackers exploited a vulnerability in the Laserfiche Forms software product, used by multiple government sites.

In July, visitors to major news sites including The Washington Post and HuffPost saw the embedded videos in news stories replaced with porn after the vid.me domain was acquired by a third party. 

The access to the main DfT website dft.gov.uk has since been restored. However, the sysadmins seem to have pulled the plug on charts.dft.gov.uk altogether, which is no longer accessible.

BleepingComputer contacted the UK DfT both via telephone and email prior to writing and we are awaiting their response.

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