Black Hat SEO Going to the Final Four

March Madness descends each year on the United States, and suddenly everyone is a basketball fan.  This year’s field of 64 teams has been whittled down to just four, one of whom is West Virginia’s Butler University.  The team provided some of the most exciting games of the tournament, particularly their win against favored Kansas State.  And as a result of March Madness and an underdog story, searches for Butler University, Butler Final Four, and Final Four 2010 have spiked.

This is to be expected; and when there is such a clear and predictable trend, there are also likely black hat search engine optimizers ready to swoop down and inject themselves in the results. (Note: this was also seen in action with the Moscow bombings as black hat SEOs infected results on the tragedy.)

This is exactly what happened subsequent to Butler’s entry into the Final Four, and it comes as little surprise to  ethical SEO companies that these black hat entries actually achieved considerable rankings. The purpose of this round of BHSEO was largely to disseminate rogue antivirus programs. According to the Tech Herald, many users searching for terms related to the NCAA, Final Four, and/or Butler were redirected to a rowinscanpc domain. The rogue antivirus program then develops false security warnings, listing several risks that are present in your system. The solution? To buy software protection. Users who opt to do so out of concern for their security are treated to a lot of nothing.  There is no software, nor were there any real security warnings or threats. And, of course, they’re $50, or more, poorer.

As this threat became clear, most of the rogue sites were blocked.  Many of the suspect URLs are for sites purporting to offer Final Four tickets.  A cautious searcher will notice that rogue sites will have a php script that is a random five letter combination.  Avoiding these links can help users avoid being swindled by black hat SEO.

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