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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 3-5

Journal hijacking: A new challenge for medical scientific community

1 Independent Research Scientist, Founder and Managing Editor of Dental Hypotheses, Isfahan, Iran
2 Department of Research, School of Dentistry, Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, Kermanshah, Iran

Date of Web Publication5-Feb-2015

Correspondence Address:
Saber Khazaei
Department of Research, School of Dentistry, Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, Shariati Street, Kermanshah-6713954658
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: Jafar Kolahi has editorial involvement with Dental Hypotheses.

DOI: 10.4103/2155-8213.150858

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Researchers and scientific communities have encountered a horrible event named journal hijacking. In this paper, we present the unethical and criminal practices of journal hijacking. A hijacked journal is a legitimate scientific journal that offers print-only version, for which a bogus website has been created by a malicious third party fake publisher for the purpose of fraudulently offering research scientists the chance to rapidly publish their paper online with publication fee. Journal hijackers are dominant in analyzing the behaviors of researchers and journalism worldwide. They find the email addresses of authors from the websites of commercial and non-peer-reviewed journals. During last few years, more than one hundred of hijacked journals have been observed unbelievably. Whoever they are, it is apparent that they have the knowledge required to design a website, manage an open access e-journal, and they are skilled to hide their characteristics on the World Wide Web. They are aware that many of authors are in urgent need to publish their work in well-known prestigious journals. The goal of an anti-journal hijacking strategy should be to disseminate knowledge about such scams and to train authors so they will have the basic skills required to avoid fake publishers and hijacked journals.

Keywords: Hijack, journal, scientific community

How to cite this article:
Kolahi J, Khazaei S. Journal hijacking: A new challenge for medical scientific community. Dent Hypotheses 2015;6:3-5

How to cite this URL:
Kolahi J, Khazaei S. Journal hijacking: A new challenge for medical scientific community. Dent Hypotheses [serial online] 2015 [cited 2023 Mar 23];6:3-5. Available from:

Recently, online hackers and website hijackers have begun hijacking the prestigious print-only journals by registering an anonymous. COM or ORG domain name and creating a fake website under the title of hijacked journals. They generally avoid the country-name domains (such as .US) because their registration procedures usually require a check of the identity of the domain owner or verification of a valid address. The crooked website is masquerading as genuine journal and the scammers attend to the closest of fine points, displaying on fake website not only the title of the genuine journal, but also the impact factors, postal address, list of the journal's editorial board, and even the international standard serial number (ISSN). [1]

Cyber criminals use a simple contact/feedback form instead of providing real contact details. They provide a link from a fake website to the authentic journal's profile in the master journal list of Thomson Reuters. Sometimes, authors aware that there should be a link between the Thomson Reuters' and the journal's website, but they would not notice that this link should be from Thomson Reuters to the Journal, not from the Journal to Thomson Reuters. [2]

Journal hijackers are dominant in analyzing the behaviors of researchers and journal editors world-widely. They find the email addresses of the authors from the websites of commercial, non-peer-reviewed journals. These potential victims are expected to respond positively to any call-for-paper emails they receive from a prestigious journal. Cyber criminals are intelligent enough to use email marketing (better categorized as spam marketing) techniques; e.g., using pseudo names and titles such as Dr. and Professor in all of the unsolicited emails. They broadcast the journal's impact factor and clearly highlight the rapid acceptance of manuscripts within 2 weeks or less time. [2]

Interestingly, a similar story entitled "Scientific Articles Accepted (Personal Checks, Too)" was published in The New York Times recently, warning about fake conferences. The researchers registered to have presentation at a conference called Entomology-2013 thought they had been elected to disseminate their research findings at the leading professional association of scientists who study insects, but learned this the hard way. The prestigious, academically sanctioned conference they had in mind has a little different name: Entomology 2013 (without the hyphen). The one they had signed up for distinguished speakers who were called up by e-mail, not checked by leading academics. Those who opted for the conference were later charged a beefy fee for the privilege, and pretty much anyone who paid got a spot on the podium that could be used to pad a résumé. [3]

During the last few years, number of hijacked journals increased dramatically [Figure 1] and tens of hijacked journals have been observed unbelievably. By saying "tens" invalid journals, readers may think we are referring to the predatory journals [4] that could easily number in the hundreds these days; however, what we are actually referring to is the tens of cases similar to the well-known case, e.g., "Vulfenia Journal0" and "Archives des Sciences," which were discussed at Nature. [2] In our updating of these kinds of spurious journals, we found evidence of the hijacking of "Jokul Journal" from Iceland, a South African-based journal entitled "Bothalia,0" and an old French journal "Pensee Journal," all of which have their impact factor compiled by Journal Citation Report. [2] However, the updated hijacked journal list is available at:
Figure 1: Number of domains registered by journal hijackers from 2000 to 20 July 2014. Hijacking data are from updated hijacked journal list (http:// and registration dates are from who is data-base (

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The great sad story is that some researchers decided to submit their manuscripts to Vulfenia Journal even though they were fully aware that it was a hijacked journal. They did so because they were going to upgrade their academic position, and they knew that the university evaluation committee were not aware of the fake-journal scam and would approve their published fake articles. [2]

Unfortunately, journal hijacking can be carried out by almost anyone who has even minimal knowledge of how to design a website. The forged journal websites looked so convincing that they initially misled Thomson Reuters. But by May 2012, the company had become suspicious, writing to the Archives des Sciences for an explanation of the "huge discrepancy" between the content of articles in its print issues of Archives des Sciences - which Thomson Reuters indexes - and on the website. It noted, too, a discrepancy in publishing frequency: "We receive and index 2 issues of each volume for each year, while the website is now listing 12 issues per volume, one each month," it wrote to the genuine journal. [1]

Nevertheless, we believe that the academic cyber criminals are completely familiar with the academic rules of upgrading lecturers, qualifying Ph.D. candidates, and applying for admission to postgraduate programs or any professorship positions. These criminals may be ghost writers or they may be the experts who used to help scholars write and publish their research work before they decided to become full-scale "ghost publishers." Whoever they are, it is apparent that they have the knowledge required to design a website, manage an open access e-journal, and they are skilled to hide their characteristics on the World Wide Web. [2] Subsequently, they know that many of authors are in urgent need to publish their work in well-known prestigious journals. Therefore, the new version of academic cyber criminals knows what to do and how to organize a completely fake conference or hijack a print-only journal. According to our observations, target journals for hijacking may have to the following characteristics: [2]

  1. Reputable, but non-famous, especially individual publishers with single journals.
  2. Journals based in non-English-speaking countries are preferred.
  3. The victim journal must be covered by the Web of Science and have an impact factor.
  4. The target journal should not have a website. By searching journal ISSN in Thomson Reuters for print-only journals their titles will appear in the search results. However, there is no links to the journals' websites because they do not have websites.
  5. The target journal is supposed not to have a high impact-factor value because it would be difficult for the hijackers to convince the authors that a high impact-factor journal invited them to publish their work in 2 weeks. However, claiming a low impact factor on the fake website is good enough for authors who are trying to get their work published in a Thomson Reuters' indexed journal in the shortest possible time.

Disappointingly, it would be too difficult to fight against journal hijackers when the scam was uncovered. "We are currently wasting our time trying to fight these people" said Robert Degli Agosti, editor-in-chief of Archives des Sciences and a plant biologist and electro physiologist at the University of Geneva. Degli Agosti has reported the counterfeit Archives des Sciences websites to the Cybercrime Coordination Unit Switzerland, but was told that the sites were hosted in the US and publication fees transferred to a bank in Yerevan-Armenia, so the unit could not act directly against them. [1]

Impressively, one of the hijackers had even persuaded Thomson Reuters to include a link to the fake journal in its list of indexed publications; the company moved quickly to remove the link when the scam was uncovered. The action triggered "a barrage of complaints and requests to reactivate the link from representatives of the false journal," said Marie McVeigh, director of content selection at Thomson Reuters. The company has moreover received enquiries from consumers "asking why the articles that had been published by one of the false journals were not appearing in our indexes." [1]

As a final point, disclosing the unethical and criminal practices of hijacked journals and bogus publishers is the one of the existing actions against this type of academic cybercrime. The goal of an anti-journal hijacking strategy should be to disseminate knowledge/awareness about such scams and to train authors and journal editor so they will have the basic skills required avoiding hijacked journals and fake publishers. We believe that well-know international organizations, e.g., International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, World Association of Medical Editors, and Committee on Publication Ethics must do action against journal hijacking.

  References Top

Butler D. Sham journals scam authors. Nature 2013;495:421-2.  Back to cited text no. 1
Jalalian M, Mahboobi H. Hijacked journals and predatory publishers: Is there a need to re-think how to assess the quality of academic research? Walailak J Sci Technol 2014;11:389-94.  Back to cited text no. 2
Kolata G. Scientific Articles Accepted (Personal Checks, Too). The New York Time, April 7, 2013. Available from: = all&_r = 1 & [Last accessed on 2014 July 10].  Back to cited text no. 3
Beall J. Predatory publishers are corrupting open access. Nature 2012;489:179.  Back to cited text no. 4


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