More than 700 fake or misleading websites playing off of the new federal Healthcare.gov site and the word Obamacare have been created on the Internet by so-called cyber-squatters looking to steal personal information from individuals trying to get healthcare coverage.
According to The Washington Examiner
, many of the sites are considered legal, though they have nothing to do with the government or the Obamacare program.
One website, the Examiner noted, has even branded itself as part of the "Obamacare enrollment team" and directs people to enter their name, address, Social Security number, and more on an enrollment form. But the site — www.obama-care.us, which is registered through GoDaddy.com and is owned by a Georgia company that also runs 167 other squatter sites — doesn't enroll anybody in anything. It just takes the information.
Cyber-squatting is nothing new. Many companies set up websites with names similar to high-profile pages to either draw traffic away from their competitors or to share information collected with other companies. But identity thieves also use fake squatter websites to gather information that ends up being used or sold to someone else.
Earlier this month, McAfee Antivirus founder John McAfee described the Obamacare website as a hacker's dream
because millions of Americans could have their identities stolen. He warned that anyone could put up a fake page and claim to be a healthcare insurance broker affiliated with the federal program.
"Any hacker can put a website up, make it look extremely competitive, and because of the nature of the system, this is healthcare after all, they can ask you the most intimate questions, and you're freely going to answer them," McAfee said.
An unsuspecting user might give up his Social Security number, date of birth, or share any mental health issues, he said.
Adding to the confusion are legitimate sites that have similar names to the Heathcare.gov site. For example, healthcare.com was established in 1994 to help people shop for private health insurance. It offers quotes from different companies, but it has no affiliation with the federal Obamacare program.
To prevent cyber-squatting, security experts typically recommend that multiple domain names be purchased similar to the main website name.
The retired cyber security expert who spoke to the Examiner said he was "shocked" that the government had not picked up any other obvious domain names before cyber-squatters could purchase them.
The expert provided the Examiner with a list of 221 websites trying to take advantage of the Healthcare.gov name, and another 499 that are squatting on state healthcare exchange websites.
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