SEO poisoning mars Prince William engagement search

17 Nov 2010

People searching online for more information about Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton have been warned that malicious hackers are poisoning search results on Google and Yahoo!

Malicious hackers are engaging in a practice of SEO (search engine optimisation) poisoning, whereby they are manipulating results to infect computers.

As a result, unwitting web surfers are clicking on links that instead of sating their curiosity deliver viruses, worms and other malware.

“This is a growing trend,” warns Ryan Waters of Websense. “Bad guys target the hot news of the moment and take advantage of people’s tendency to trust Google.”

A recent Websense Security labs report found that 22.4pc of all searches for current news and buzz words is now more dangerous than searching for porn.

Warning bells before wedding bells

“Cybercriminals are quick to exploit opportunities,” said Urban Schrott of ESET. “An excellent one has presented itself in the form of the announcement of the royal wedding between prince William and Kate Middleton. A careful computer user should hear warning bells before wedding bells here!

“Apart from the obvious way of sending spam mail pretending to have news about the wedding, cybercriminals anticipate people’s curiosity about the event and can optimise search words on their fraudulent websites so that people Googling for ‘Royal Wedding’ and ‘Royal Family’ are directed to websites riddled with drive-by malware and scareware, prompting them to purchase useless fake antivirus products or infect them with other malicious software.

“This sort of manipulation has been reported previously in cases like the death of Michael Jackson, the Air France aircrash, the Haiti earthquake and other hot topics. Computer users should therefore exercise caution and restrain their curiosity to known websites and avoid clicking unknown links that may offer additional info about the wedding,” Schrott warned.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years