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Was Ace.gov a Serious Endeavor?

By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—It appears there are many broken “links” when researching ace.gov. As we reported yesterday, the URL is not that of the organization, but that of what appears to be a development website for Rebecca Ann Caldwell Mason on Square Space, a one-stop shop for building and hosting websites. Another registered website name also redirects to a Square Space server.

The domain for ace.gov cannot simply be registered on just any domain service website. Domains containing .gov or .edu fall under special requirements, and must be approved before being used.

To obtain a .gov domain, the name must be registered at www.dotgov.gov and restrictive guidelines must be followed in order to obtain the suffix, which includes an authorization letter signed by an agency head or CIO.

“Eligibility for an .edu domain is limited to US postsecondary institutions that are institutionally accredited,” according to Educause.

All that is required to reserve a web address from a Domain Name System (DNS) for a .com is essentially a credit card, and an available name.

A DNS is the numerical value added by a domain name service, that tells the browser on which server to locate a URL or web address. It is much like a street address that tells on which computer in the world the website for that address is located.

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According to a technical source, in order to get around these restrictions and often in order to misdirect a viewer, a .com version of a name is registered in its place, often by “phishers.”

This source revealed that the original Registered name was acegov.com. A search of this name revealed that name was reserved, but no information was available to the public. An ICANN WHOIS query shows that the registrant’s admin and tech contact information is private, and obtained through Domains By Proxy, LLC.

When attempting to access acegov.com, the server redirects back to Square Space, but not to a website.

In the development of a website, a development server is used for testing before launch. Customarily, once the site is finished and approved, it is moved to a live server. Then the company developing the site “launches” it live by redirecting the DNS to the appropriate server.

It appears that while the name acegov.com was reserved, the DNS was never redirected to the site for ace.gov.

Is it a coincidence? A Google search for Alabama Council for Excellent Government lists the “What We Do” page for the organization, but redirects to what appears to be Mrs. Mason’s development site at Square Space. Also, acegov.com redirects to Square Space, but not to a specific website.

All indications seem to point to these two domain names being related, however, it seems the final steps were not taken to connect them in the cyber world.

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Also, we checked the domain ace.Alabama.gov. It is owned by the State of Alabama Information Services Division, but only redirects to a Microsoft Outlook Web App.

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