Hack a Scholarly Journal

December 7, 2015

Scholarly journals and other academic research are usually locked down under a copyright firewall that requires an expensive subscription to access.  Most of the people who want this content are researchers, writers, scientists, students, and other academics.  Most people who steal content usually steal movies, software, books, and material related to pop culture or expensive to buy elsewhere.   Scholarly journals fall into the latter category, but Science Mag shares a new trend for hackers, “Feature: How To Hijack A Journal.”

Journal hacking is not new, but it gaining traction due to the multimillion-dollar academic publishing industry.  Many academic writers pay to publish their papers in a journal and  the fees range in hundreds of dollars.  What happens is something called Web site spoofing, where hackers buy a closely related domain or even hack the actual journal’s domain a create a convincing Web site.  The article describes several examples where well-known journals were hijacked, including one he did himself.

How can you check to see if an online journal is the real deal?

“First, check the domain registration data online by performing a WHOIS query. (It’s not an acronym, but rather a computer protocol to look up “who is” behind a particular domain.) If the registration date is recent but the journal has been around for years, that’s the first clue. Also suspicious is if the domain’s country of registration is different from the journal’s publisher, or if the publisher’s name and contact information are kept anonymous by private domain registrars.”

Sadly, academic journals will be at risk for some time, because many of the publishers never adapted to online publishing, sometimes someone forgets to pay a domain name bill, and they rely on digital object identifiers to map Web addresses to papers.

Scholarly journals are important for academic research, but their publishing models are outdated anyway.  Maybe if they were able to keep up the hacking would not happen as often.

Whitney Grace, December 7, 2015
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


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