SEO Poisoning is Search Engine Poisoning. It is a kind of threat that involves creating fake web pages. That web pages stuffed with a high volume of keywords.
It deceives search engines in order to get top ranking in SERP (Search Engine Result Page).
The sites are related to the terms that a huge number of people are likely to be searching at any given time. For example, keywords related to holiday tour, viral videos, and news items etc.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Generally, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the marketing strategy. It is designed to ensure that your webpage is found when people search with the keywords related to your websites.
The ranking of the website is based on how well your page is optimized. It’s based not only on optimization but also on the reputation. Reputation is based on the number of inbound links pointing to a page. The ranking value will be high if the inbound links come from the websites relevant to your subject. Moreover, getting more inbound links from many other websites also will help for ranking.
In this article, we will see how cybercriminals trick to get a higher ranking with their fakely optimized websites.
Particularly, SEO poisoning tries to perform two major activities as follows.
(i) Creating fake websites with high ranking in SERP to attack the visitors of the page.
(ii) Exploiting vulnerabilities in the previous legitimate high ranking websites. Cybercriminals using that website to spread malicious activities.
The intent of malicious websites is to target visitors. Then install Trojans on their devices such as laptop, tablet, mobile and desktop etc.
Therefore, SEO poisoning reaches a huge number of people within a short duration. So they use trending topics based on the current situation. The topics which people are fascinated about.
Trending topics are based on people’s mindset and situations. During this pandemic, the major topic people used to search are related to COVID-19.
For example symptoms of COVID-19, precautions for COVID-19, the status report of the day etc. So, cybercriminals also use those topics to create illegitimate websites.
How do Cybercriminals use SEO Poisoning?
One of the main methods used by cybercriminals is blackhat SEO.
This is called dark side SEO. Blackhat SEO creates scripts. It understands the website is visited by the legitimate user or search engine crawler. If the website is visited by the crawler, higher ranking content is given. If the website is visited by the legitimate user, malicious content is given.
In addition to that, there are some risky SEO techniques that are available in SEO Poisoning. We can see them below.
(i) Spam Comments
Have you gone through spam comments? The comments which are not related to your websites and have promotional links?
These spam comments are intended for creating the backlinks. This is currently one of the most popular techniques of blackhat people.
(ii) Keyword stuffing
Earlier, the most famous technique was the keyword stuffing used by blackhat SEO. The content will not be related to the website, rather it will be stuffed with keywords. Earlier, the Search Engines used to rank the content based on the keywords. They may be in the title, in the Meta tag or in the content. So the cybercriminals used the keyword stuffing intelligently for higher ranking.
The keywords can be stuffed in the invisible text also. Invisible text denotes the white text. Here, the keywords will also become invisible, even though search engines index them based on the keyword.
(iii) Paid Links
Buying links for SEO is a major advantage for buyers. After buying this, the attackers will not worry about the content. With the paid links, they manipulate search engine ranking. This is why the blackhat SEO technique needs to be analyzed.
Cross Site Scripting
Basically, it is not very easy to get a higher ranking for malicious websites through blackhat SEO. So cybercriminals use the cross-site scripting method.
Here, the attackers use the existing high ranking websites to spread malicious content.
These are the major techniques cybercriminals use for SEO Poisoning.
Therefore, we should follow some of the best practices to avoid SEO Poisoning.
Security Tips to avoid SEO Poisoning Attacks
- The first and important practice is to train users not to visit unknown websites. Then educate them to understand the URL.
- Use end-user security solutions, such as updated antivirus software to find malicious activities.
- Regularly use the web vulnerability scanner and maintain your websites free of vulnerabilities.
- If you find any SEO Poisoning activities hitting your site, immediately report to the search engine.
- While using the website, if you click any link, then you should check the URL of the new page opened. Make sure that this current page is related to this website.
- Maintain the regular practice of checking the URL of every click on the links.
- Never provide your personal information to any websites. Once you realize it is the legitimate website, then you can proceed.
SEO Poisoning is a major setback for your website and business. Remember to keep your themes and plugins updated.
Set Guard!! Don’t let SEO Poisoning kill your search engine rankings!!