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A cybersecurity researcher used a small R.I. town to point out a big problem

A researcher figured out how to clone a town -

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Happy Tuesday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Edward Fitzpatrick and I have a poster in my house that says “You can go to hell, I’m going to Pawtucket.” Follow me on Twitter @FitzProv or send tips to

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Dan McGowan is sitting by a pool thinking of new Rhode Map ideas this week. He’ll be back on Monday.


A cybersecurity researcher used a small town in the smallest state to demonstrate that it’s way too easy to set up a fake government website. – a computer security blog by investigative reporter Brian Krebs – reports that it recently received an email from a researcher who had figured out how to finagle a domain name ending in “.gov” and clone the town’s real website. The researcher did it “simply by filling out and emailing an online form, grabbing some letterhead off the homepage of a small U.S. town that only has a .us domain name, and impersonating the town’s mayor in the application,” Krebs wrote.

That small town was Exeter, R.I.

It’s unclear why the researcher focused on Exeter, a town of 6,500 people which actually has a town moderator and not a mayor. But the discovery is significant because so many people trust links and emails coming from government domain names – as opposed to sites ending in .com or .org. “This trust may be severely misplaced,” Krebs concluded.

Krebs did not name the researcher. “Technically, what my source did was wire fraud,” he wrote. But it shows a cybercriminal could follow the same steps, he said.


“It’s disappointing that the U.S. General Services Administration didn’t have a more thorough vetting process for registering a .gov domain,” Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea told the Globe. “It’s fortunate that this issue was flagged by a concerned researcher. This is the latest reminder that everyone needs to constantly assess and improve their systems when it comes to cybersecurity.”


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Amanda Milkovits and I headed to Pawtucket to cover the announcement of $400 million project that would include a 7,500-seat professional soccer stadium. Governor Gina M. Raimondo, Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien and Fortuitous Partners detailed a plan that calls for $70 million to $90 million in public investment.

• That announcement inspired Matt Jerzyk -- an avid soccer fan, soccer dad, and soccer blogger who works as city solicitor for the City of Central Falls -- to list the “Top 10 Things to Know about the new Soccer Team coming to Rhode Island.”

• Is the U.S. economy doing well? Depends on who you ask. A new poll by Brown University’s Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy found 77 percent of Republicans think the economy is getting better, compared to 14 percent of Democrats. And while 51 percent of adults 65 or older are optimistic about America’s economic future, just 31 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 think things are getting better.


US Senator Jack Reed, ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, says the Electric Boat shipyard in Quonset Point will benefit from the Navy’s decision to award a $22.2 billion contract to General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. to build nine new Virginia-class submarines. “This contract is a major win for Rhode Island,” he said Monday.

• Working with the ProPublica Local Reporting Network, The Public’s Radio’s Lynn Arditi has written an important story about how “Rhode Island EMS crews brought patients to the hospital with misplaced breathing tubes: None of them survived.”

• I finished the 2013 Boston Marathon before the bombs went off, so I’ve paid particular attention to the legal process that has followed. The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen writes about how Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death penalty appeal is coming before a federal appellate court Dec. 12, saying: “Unlike Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, Sean Collier, and DJ Simmonds, the Tsarnaev case is still very much alive.”


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at

The House Finance Committee is scheduled to meet at 3:30 this afternoon to hear testimony on the status of the state budget, including revenue and first-quarter spending. Look for the panel to focus on the Department of Children, Youth and Families, which is already expected to be $22 million over budget.


Governor Gina M. Raimondo is scheduled to attend a “spotlight celebration” at 1 p.m. at Ponaganset High School in North Scituate. A rally will celebrate Ponaganset’s “Choose to Include” initiative.

• In observance of World AIDS Day, the Global Health Initiative will show the award-winning documentary “Lovesick” today at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, in the Joukowsky Forum. A reception begins at 5:30 p.m. and a free screening starts at 6 p.m.

• We’ve all heard of CPR but what about QPR? Question, Persuade, Refer is an evidence-based, emergency intervention practice meant to assist someone who is contemplating suicide. The Westerly Education Center is accepting registrants today for free training at noon Friday at 23 Friendship St., Westerly.

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Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to or follow me on Twitter @FitzProv. See you tomorrow.

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