The Fight Against Black Hat Search Engine Malware

This according to Sophos, a web security firm, over 65 percent of malicious, or spam search results from the last couple of weeks came from Bing. Google accounted for about 30 percent of malicious redirects. This black hat tactic allows hackers to hide redirects into legitimate websites. These harmful redirects will only affect visitors coming from search engines. More often in Bing, when users click on a search result, instead of taking them to a legitimate site the hidden redirect will send them to a malicious site.

How do users protect themselves from these malicious redirects and websites? Some malicious links are easier to distinguish than others, for example, leaked videos of Miley Cyrus, or pictures of Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez. However, not all malware is that easy to recognize. Hackers have been known to poison other topics, like educational themes, where they trap teachers and students searching for information and resources.

Black Hat hackers are able to trick search engine bots into thinking they are reliable, legitimate sites. They do this by targeting topics and using a kit to create rich keyword pages. Search engines will then crawl and index these pages, and rank them high on search results because of their rich content. Then, users who are searching for these topics will click on the malicious link because they are ranked high on search results. After the user clicks on what they think is a legitimate link, the kit these hackers created, will redirect the user to their malicious website.

To help combat these poisoning tactics, Sophos has developed a Web Appliance detection system (SWA). Since they have been using SWA, Sophos has found that 30 percent of the malware they have blocked has come from Black Hat Search Engine Poisoning.

Because search engines are being so heavily targeted by hackers, users have to be cautious about the links they are about to click on. There are many strategies available to fight Black Hat tactics, like browser plug-ins. However, the three most useful and affective strategies are listed below:

  1. Users have to review, and think before they click on a link that a search engine has provided for them.
  2. Make sure that you have enabled all of the filtering options your search engine provides to you.
  3. Finally, make sure you have an affective scanning system, which will review the content of each site, and a URL filtering system, focused on blocking malware.

Search engine poisoning has been increasing in occurrence over the last couple of weeks. Hackers are using Black Hat tactics to trick both search engines and users into thinking their links are legitimate and useful. To the untrained eye, distinguishing these harmful links from legitimate links has been proven to be difficult. Not all malware links are as obvious as leaked videos of Kim Kardashian. With this being said, users really need to make sure that all filtering options are enabled and ready to go. They should have a scanning system that will quickly peruse the content of each site. Finally, users just need to review and think about each link before they click on it. These search engine poisoners are very tricky, don’t fall into their tricks and avoid becoming their next victim.

-Joe Giorgianni

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