A New Threat to Calgary Business Websites from SEO Poisoning
The fast-paced technological world has changed the way hackers operate. Currently, an average of 3.5 billion Google searches occurs every day. The high figures make search engine results a prime target for stealing information.
One common tool hackers use is search engine poisoning. It’s a malicious tactic used to trick innocent online users into sharing critical data, installing a virus, and distributing malware across the internet. One report shows about 51% of website hacks result from SEO spam.
Small websites and major platforms can easily be a pawn to search engine poisoning. Here you will find all the facts you need to know about this illicit practice, along with expert tips to protect your site from falling victim.
What is Search Engine Poisoning?
Search engine poisoning refers to a hacker’s malicious act using dummy websites that appear in legitimate search engine results. The goal for these websites is to steal online users’ information, such as banking data, or trick them into installing malware on their devices.
Most fake websites are impossible to notice since they mimic top-rated legitimate business websites that most people trust. These hackers can also have a series of dummy sites with social media profiles to create an illusion of being a genuine and popular brand.
Search engine poisoning comes from using search engine optimization practices to rank higher in search engines, making them appear genuine. It is easy for cybercriminals to infiltrate, poison, or create deceptive page titles and links that take a user to malware websites.
These dummy sites have SEO data by focusing on low-volume and low-competition phrases that rank high on any search. Some intent searches that are common with the dummy sites are related to gambling and international pharmaceuticals. Most of these sectors involve users searching for sites they may not engage with often.
Luckily, you can recognize some easily since they may have fake headers, poor grammar, and ‘news’ box titles. By hiding among the legions of other legitimate websites, users can easily fall prey to clicking on the SERP link and get directed to a fraudulent website. At this point, the site leads them to click an HTML code containing malware or another fake checkout process.
Dangers of Search Engine Poisoning
The Internet is a global information highway, and therefore it enables hackers to have a broad international audience when they can practice their illegal ways. One specific danger of these dummy websites is that they can appear in local business searches.
When users search for a flower shop or a restaurant that delivers, they may get to such sites. Most small companies don’t have great websites, and seeing errors and minor quirks may not alert you. Thus, you will unknowingly surrender your payment information to a hacker’s website.
Using malicious software, these hackers cause all sorts of mayhem on a network or computer devices. They will use their malware to steal passwords, delete files, or hold your networks for ransom. In any case, you have a computer connected within a company’s virtual private network, the malware in your computer can spread onto other devices as well.
Others who manage websites using PCs are also in real danger from SEO poisoning. One occurrence in the past year saw malware called Gootloader targeting WordPress sites through SEO poisoning and leading to the injection of a lot of spam content. Every WordPress user must update their software and use the latest themes, plug-ins, and WordPress core.
Other SEO poisoning works by gaining access to legitimate sites that are highly ranked on search engines, then injecting specific search terms that will enable content to appear on the sites. These sites are highly respected, and by adding poisoned content to them, users can easily access them knowing they are safe. The content appears as PDF files that require a download to view.
Any user who clicks on the download button seals their fate. The file will redirect them multiple times behind the scenes, leading to a hacker-controlled site, which drops a malicious payload on the user’s device.
These hackers access most respected WordPress sites easily using a plug-in known as ‘Formidable Forms.’ By installing malicious PDFs in the content, they will get people who will click on them unwillingly.
Financial Loss because of SEO Poisoning
Businesses that rely on online sales and use credit cards lose money to these frauds when they get their information. In the worst scenario, their purchases may get blocked and funding for their online processes cut.
Also, people using cryptocurrencies for purchasing products online must take external caution. Once you surrender any information about your Bitcoin to fraudulent sites, there are very slim chances that you may ever recover your money again. Such reasons may lead to the closure of a business that relies on online operations.
Tips To Prevent Search Engine Poisoning
The best way to protect your website is to remain vigilant about the sites you want to share information with. Also, ensure you reduce or avoid sharing any financial or personal information on any website without first investigating. It will be time-consuming but remains the best way to spot a dummy website.
Hackers are good at what they do, and sometimes they create dummy sites that look very, very real. A big giveaway to these sites is the lack of an SSL certificate. While the NOT SECURE notification from Google may not mean you are on a hacker’s site, navigate away and clear your browser cache immediately when you are in it and feel any uncertainty.
WordPress website owners and online shoppers alike should be aware of the growing concern about online fraud. The ever-increasing cybersecurity issues make everyone keen on taking care of their sensitive data. No one is immune to attacks and being vital cybersecurity services is the key to remaining safe while operating online.
Businesses need top IT security services from a reputable company like CTECH Consulting Group. We cater to businesses of all sizes and offer all IT security needs to remain secure online. Contact us today for consultations.
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