Black hat SEO campaigns are notorious for mishandling search engines. There is a growing concern that these types of campaigns are leading web searchers to malicious sites with the intent to promote fake antivirus applications. A recent study by the network infrastructure company SonicWALL has highlighted a recent upswing within this frowned-upon activity, and the results are staggering.
According to their data, from March 3rd – March 9th “…more than 284 top search terms have been attacked by more than 6600 malicious URLS.” And that is just with Google. Top search terms are defined as terms that are getting the most traffic at any given moment. The ever popular Google Trends page displays these terms, and top news stories are usually the main focus of these terms.
SonicWALL also discovered that “…up to nine of the top 20 search terms are under attack at any one time.” Two examples here were searches for film producer “Elinor Burkett” and the Oscar winning short film “The New Tenants.” These terms were highly searched in the days just after the Academy Awards due to the rather abrupt interruption of fellow producers Roger Ross Williams’s acceptance speech by Ms. Burkett. SonicWALL has shown that 96 unique malicious websites appeared within the top 30 search results for these two terms on Google within 24 hours. While there is an on-going fight to remove these sites as soon as possible, sometimes within just a few hours of going up, these numbers really show that more attention needs to be put on this.
Some common tips for users to avoid these types of sites have been provided by SonicWALL, but the problem of black hat SEO tactics needs to continue to be addressed by the search engines. Further refinement of organic listings and the speed at which a site can gain a positive ranking needs to be administered. The search engines have done a good job keeping these sites out of their paid listings, but some more diligent work needs to take place with the natural search arena. Black hat SEO is a powerful and dangerous set of tools. It takes both user and search engine defenses to fend off the malicious intent behind them.