Black Hat SEO

SEO is an invaluable business tool, and cybercriminals are finding that optimization is quite helpful in their line of work as well. Using trending news and current events as their vehicles, these cybercriminals are unleashing malicious software onto unsuspecting computer users. Their favorite targets are social networking sites, like Twitter, and search engines. This is not a surprise, but what may be is the success malware distributors have been enjoying.


Criminals often take the route of least resistance, and it is no different with cybercriminals. One of the reasons why Twitter has been such a ripe target is that it is easier to propagate malware programs and viruses on that site than it is on search engines, where they have to get to the top of the rankings. Another reason is that it is remarkably easy to ascertain tweeting trends because they simply tell you what the hot topics of the day are. The newly released Barracuda Labs 2009 Annual Report estimates that one in eight Twitter accounts are malicious.

 Search engines are, by no means, neglected by cybercriminals. This remains a popular method for dispersing viruses and malware.  According to a report issued by SonicWall on March 9, “In the last seven days, more than 284 top search terms have been attacked by more than 6600 malicious URLs,” and “up to nine of the top 20 search terms are under attack at any one time.”

 Cybercriminals largely depend on search trends and popular news events to disseminate their malware.  SonicWall gives Elinor Burkett as an example.  This is the film producer who channeled Kanye West at the Academy Awards.  Between March 8 and 9, searches for Ms. Burkett yielded 40 unique malicious URLs in Google’s top 30 results.

Deepen Desai, SonicWall’s lead malware researcher says, “These criminals are now going after these top search terms using their knowledge to insert malware-infected websites almost immediately after people show an interest in a particular news site.”

 Experts urge the same caution for both Tweeters and search engine users: don’t click on links or URLs indiscriminately.  SonicWall advices: “often the legitimate sites show up with complete, readable sentences in their description … malicious sites [often] show up with jumbled keywords…Steer clear of any kind of video codecs or … downloads prompted by most of these sites.”  Twitter users, too, are urged not to follow any links that appear in trending topics.

 Besides SEO, cybercriminals are banking largely on trust and interest.  Using caution can thwart many of these attacks.

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