FAQ: National Council Web Sites



How do I know whether a given site is an official BSA Web site?

There are a large number of Scouting-oriented Web sites that are not operated by the Boy Scouts of America. Some are operated by councils, districts, or units; others by individuals who merely wish to support Scouters; and others that are operated for nefarious reasons.

If you are in doubt about the authenticity of a site ...

  • First, check the list of official BSA Web sites to determine if it is listed. Most of the sites are listed here, though the only "complete" list of all sites (public and private) operated by the National Council is kept on ScoutNet - see http://info.netbsa.org/adm/ccd/web/sites.html
  • Next, check with your council to determine if the site is an internal site (like www.fsd.org or info.netbsa.org).
  • You can also run a "whois" query to determine the site operator - but this is not reliable, as some individuals provide false information when registering a domain name.

If all else fails, use the FAQ New Question form to ask the BSA Webmaster, who can investigate further.



How can I keep up with changes and additions to BSA sites?

Two resources are provided to keep council webmasters abreast of the changes in the BSA's Web sites:

  • Maintenance Logs on this Web site are updated any time there is a significant change or addition to one of our sites, usually minutes after it happens. Those logs also provide a preview of future projects.
  • The Mailing List is used in two ways: to send "Alerts" whenever a change requires action on your part right away, and to send monthly "Newsletters" to update you on lower-priority items.

We currently do not keep track of "minor" changes - updates to an existing page, minor corrections, etc. that affect the content, but would not require a council to change any preexisting link to that item.



How does the Council Locator work?

The council locator checks a ZIP code provided by a user to determine which council serves that area, then displays contact information for that council. The data that is used for this operation comes from Registration Service, so it is as accurate as possible.

There are instances in which a give ZIP code is served by two or more councils. In such cases, only one council is returned (a limitation of the database is it can only assign one council to a given ZIP code area). According to Registration Service, the council that serves the "majority" of that ZIP code is the one associated with that ZIP code.

Another limitation to the database is that there is a fixed template for council contact information that includes name, street address, phone number, and Web site. There is no field for a toll-free number, or a second site, or separate mailing and shipping address. etc.



How do the various Unit Locators work?

Recently, we've added "unit locators" to some sites (joincubscouting.org, thescoutzone.org, the new Venturing site) to demonstrate to potential members that there are a number of Scouting units in their area.

These locators compare the first three digits of the ZIP code provided by the user against the first three digits of the ZIP code provided by the chartered organization, then return a list of units, grouped by city.

Since this is entirely new, there are still a few kinks to be worked out: some ZIP codes returns "too many" or "too few" units; some units meet at a location that has a different ZIP code than the chartered organization's office address; some ZIP codes return units that are not operated by the council that serves the ZIP code entered; etc.

It's also worth noting that the most common problem encountered so far is that a unit's ZIP code has been mistyped in our member database (PAS). The council registrar will need to correct the ZIP code, and the Web site will reflect the correct address the next time it is updated. (Updates occur monthly - data from the previous month is received within the first two weeks of the next.)



Why do some people get an "Access Denied" message?

There have been periodic attempts to hack into the BSA Web site or to abuse some of the programs we provide to the public - and since local ISPs generally do not provide any assistance in preventing this activity, we've had to take measures to defend our own systems.

Our primary line of defense is to use a "black list" of IP addresses that have been used in attempted attacks on our systems. For example, if any of our servers were attached from a user at 151.196.24.110, we do not allow anyone using that address (or sometimes, an entire block, such as 151.196.24.*) access to any of our systems.

In some instances, we're able to restrict access only to the specific programs that the user had previously attempted to exploit ... but in others, access to our systems is denied completely. It generally depends on the severity of the attack.

It's worth noting that most ISPs keep a bank of numbers that are shared among their users - so a person who is denied access isn't necessarily the party who attempted to hack our system ... they may simply have the misfortune of using the same ISP as someone else who has.