SANTA CLAUS HACKED FOR THE HOLIDAYS

In what has to be a new low for online hackers, someone has planted malicious code on a Web site for Santa Claus. A man from Lake Tahoe, Nev., who legally goes by the name Santa Claus, has asked security consultants at the StopBadware organization to investigate why his site—SantasLink.net—had been experiencing trouble with search engines. When they, charitably, looked into the matter, they found that, sure enough, Claus had been hacked, according to an IDG News report today.

A self-described monk, Claus runs the Santa's Bless the Children Tour, an advocacy program for children sponsored by a Lake Tahoe Episcopal church. The white-bearded man states that he has traveled 15 000 miles over the last five months visiting with state and federal legislatures, state agencies, and houses of worship on behalf of the cause of the health, safety, and welfare of children, especially those without parents.

Like the old saying goes, however, "It seems no good deed goes unpunished." Just in time for the holidays, Claus's site was vandalized, infected with malicious code, which got it booted off the popular search engines. Inquiring with local troubleshooters, though, led to a recommendation that he seek the help of the master coders at StopBadware—founded earlier this year, with funding from Google, Lenovo, and Sun Microsystems, as an online consumer resource. That proved to be the solution to his holiday nightmare.

"He had consulted local experts, which we can only assume were elves, but they were unable to identify anything wrong with his site," wrote StopBadware developer Jason Callina in a blog. "We noticed right away that nestled all snug in the bottom of his homepage was a nice little bit of code containing a badware link—specifically, an iframe that would attempt to install badware onto visitors' computers via a Javascript exploit."

Callina and his cohorts soon disinfected the code, and Claus's site for children is now back up and running. "The moral of the story is that the Grinches who are looking to spread their unsafe software are willing to hack even Santa's Web site," Callina noted.

The perpetrators have not been caught. But we suspect that somewhere, three days from now, one or more kiddies with a working knowledge of scripting languages will wake up to find a stocking full of coal hanging over the fireplace, instead of a new PlayStation 3. After all, "He knows if you've been bad or good."

[Now, if you want to check out the famous ride Santa Claus makes this weekend, visit Santa's Toy Hunt and Santa Tracker at Google Earth, where you can also search the globe for holiday surprises.]

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