Q. A Jacksonville Today reader, Israel C., wanted to know why he was not able to access jacksonville.gov or floridabar.org while overseas.
A. Access to jacksonville.gov is blocked to everyone outside the United States due to security reasons, the city says. Floridabar.org is blocked in most countries outside the U.S. for the same reason.
The city did not answer follow-up questions about what the security concerns are and when access might be restored.
Jacksonville Today reached out to a cyber security expert at the University of North Florida about threats in general. Swap Roy, an associate professor in computing, said hackers commonly will use what he called “injections,” which can be done many different ways, from getting onto a website without a valid password to changing the contents of a website.
“It’s one of the most widely used ways, preferred ways for attackers to take down a website,” Roy said.
Other threats include phishing, in which hackers send an email that looks legitimate to get someone to click on a malicious link. That type of activity could provide the hacker with access to a website.
Roy said an individual organization, not an internet service provider, would typically block overseas users in the case of security concerns.
“It is the policy of an organization that defines what kind of traffics are allowed or disallowed, to flow in and out back and forth in an organization,” Roy said.
The Florida Bar says it is frequently the target of attacks from international hackers. If any other members need access internationally, they should use a virtual private network, which allows a person to step around a blocked website, the Bar says.
Roy does not recommend that method. If a website is blocked, he said, it’s for a reason.