What are “Poisoned” Search Results and How Can We Fight Them?
Sometimes, when looking for something on the internet, the search engine would return search results that, when clicked, redirects you to malicious websites. Although the search result or link may seem to be valid, opening it will redirect you to illegitimate/fake websites. Next thing you’ll know is that you’re PC’s already infected with malwares and other exploits.
This is called “Search Engine Optimization Poisoning” or “SEO Poisoning”, another way for criminals to spread malwares and malicious codes by replacing legitimate search results with illegitimate or “poisoned” search results. Moreover, these webpages are attached with malicious code, keystroke loggers, viruses and other exploits that silently corrupt your PC.
Usually, cybercriminals and scammers use hot and trending topics then build fake webpages and include the search terms to trick unknowing users. Previous instances include the “Haiti earthquake” where scammers tricked users into entering credit card details on fake charity websites. The death of Pop Icon Michael Jackson was also exploited by cybercriminals, victimizing users looking for MJ’s “autopsy” report. Recently, it was the news of Lindsay Lohan’s jailtime that scammers took advantage of.
Often within hours of major news and pop culture events, as many as 50 percent of search results can be “poisoned” – meaning that it’s more likely than not that you will click on a bad link. Imagine the number of naïve internet users falling to this exploit daily, especially children.
Here are some tips on preventing this exploit and making your online search activities safer.
1) Always review the search results and be cautious of suspicious sites. Only click links that are rated “Safe”
2) Don’t fall for sensational headlines; these are what cybercriminals use to lure users in clicking their poisoned links.
3) Delete e-mails and ignore search results from people you don’t know and unfamiliar websites – no matter what they’re promising
4) Be careful on clicking a link on social networking sites, even when the links are from friends. There’s a chance that your friend’s account has been hijacked.
5) Aside from installing internet security software that includes search protection, use safe search tools that can identify poisoned search results and websites. Check out some free tools such as the Norton Safe Web Lite and Norton Safe Web for Facebook
As Lindsay Lohan says, often it’s best to rely upon known and trusted media sites, as well as news coming straight from the source. Don’t let your eagerness to be “in the know” allow you to fall for a cybertrick! [related blogpost from Norton]
This blogpost can also be found here.