Wednesday, 12 October 2016 20:50

CMU website, others targeted by hackers to toy with Google search results

Carnegie Mellon University's website was hacked.

But it wasn't an attack intended to take the university offline or one aimed at stealing personal information.

Instead, the hackers slipped a single word, “machine,” into a page about the executive director of CMU's Australia campus and linked the word to an online casino site, according to an investigation by eTraffic, an Israeli web marketing company that discovered the hack last month.

That link, and dozens like it on college and government sites, helped the casino website — mobileslotcash[dot]com — shoot to the top of Google's search results, likely driving traffic to the site and potentially bringing in $80 per click.

It was a classic “black hat” search engine optimization (SEO) tactic, experts told the Tribune-Review. It's the shady side of Internet marketing, in which some groups break the rules and sometimes resort to hacking to rank near the top of search engine results.

“We felt that applying this kind of SEO strategy is aiming a bit too low,” eTraffic wrote in a report on its investigation. “There's no other way to put it — this is just wrong.”

The hack targeted CMU and more than 70 other university, college and government websites, all ending in .edu or .gov. ETraffic said the hackers took advantage of the “last online resort free of exactly these kinds of manipulations.”

The phrase “online slot machines for real money” and a link appeared in a Stanford University page about how to build a website. “Online casino games real money no deposit” appeared on a website for the city of Reading, which was intended to give step-by-step directions to access government services. Boston University's library page for The North American Fichte Society, a site for scholars devoted to the study of German philosopher J.G. Fichte, had the words “real money mobile slots” on it.

Links from these types of sites are prized in the SEO world. They can add credibility and legitimacy to sites Google scans, causing the search engine to list it higher in results.

The renegade words and links have since been removed from many of the affected websites. The casino website has since disappeared from Google search results. Google likely learned about its SEO trickery and banned it, experts said.

In a statement to the Tribune-Review, Google declined to comment on specifics.

“Our webmaster guidelines are designed to protect users, and when a site violates them, we reserve the right to take action to preserve a good user experience. This helps ensure that in the long run people can find the best possible search results on Google, and website owners can compete on a level playing field for traffic,” Google wrote.

CMU declined to comment on the hack. Other universities, colleges and governments contacted for the story did not comment.

Little is known about the casino site behind the links. Mobileslotcash[dot]com claims to have information and links to online casinos. The site's editors make casino ratings once a month to “give a complete picture of what online casinos are worth your attention, so that you can try your luck in them,” according to the site.

The site is registered in the Czech Republic. When asked for comment via email, mobileslotcash[dot]com directed the Tribune-Review to fill out a form used to report abuses by the site. No one responded.

Guy Regev, CEO of eTraffic, told the Trib his company has detected black hat SEO tactics before but not on such an aggressive level.

ETraffic reached out to the affected sites through Twitter but saw little reason for concern.

“The perpetrators got what they wanted — a link from high-trust sites. My intuition says that's all there is there,” Regev said. “The main takeaway is that there is a lot of money in search, probably too much, and people will go to insane lengths to get their hands on some of it.”

Vanitha Swaminathan, a marketing and business economics professor at University of Pittsburgh's Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, said black hat tactics can produce significant short-term results. But if Google or others find out, they can ban websites from their searches, costing companies dearly.

Large, reputable companies such as BMW, Toys R Us and J.C. Penney have all inadvertently hired a search engine consulting firm that used black hat tactics to inflate their search ranks.

“But, when they were found out, their rankings dropped so significantly, it cost the company a great deal by way of lost sales,” Swaminathan said. “Be aware of the risks of using black hat SEO — when you get found out, the search engine can make you regret you ever did it.”

Source: triblive.com


  • Comment Link Meagan Monday, 14 October 2019 07:54 posted by Meagan

    Hello there, You have doone an incredible job. I'll certainly digg
    it and personally recommend to my friends. I'm confident they will be benefited from this web site. http://www.mystartrekyear.com

  • Comment Link KarlPerezy Sunday, 22 September 2019 09:16 posted by KarlPerezy

    Cyber security is important nowadays because lots of black hat hackers try to steal the data of the people. It is very easy to steal the data of people and now people can use https://icasinoreviews.info/online-blackjack-nz/ in order to play free spins. Some white hat hackers try to detect the black hat hackers and protect the data.

  • Comment Link 3win8 apk Wednesday, 17 July 2019 23:29 posted by 3win8 apk

    One within the easiest solutions to generate free network leads for yiur MLM clients are through social media sites.

    Social networking sites took the internet byy storm over recent yars years.
    Whether it be business networking sites such as Ryze,
    Fast Pitch, and Direct Matches, or more generc sites such as
    MySpae and Facebook, tend tto be endless chance too build relationships with others,
    get free leads to all your MLM business, aas welol as to market your
    prroduct and services.

    Wheen are generally deciding what to market focus
    is needed on the labels. One specific and simple themje exactly what should
    be focused from. It is harder to market a broad, vague idea.
    Generasl items are harder tto sell than niche items.
    A soft cover permits last with a reasonable pricing is easier to offer than a
    golf golfing ball.

    good content provides traffic. Content that is keyword rioch will bring more traffic that Gokgle and other search engines will ssnd to you'll.
    At first turning to the major search engines won't cut the
    mustard. You have to do mor to enssure good quality traffic.

    In pkain engkish a quality websire is first and foremost.
    We strive to use locations to markwt products and
    convert customers for the merchant and eatn commission fees.

    Offsiite SEO techniques the particular key too scoring ann excellent source oof a
    internt marketing. While onsite SEO is important,
    your real effects are going tto come from offsite SEO.

    Also known inn the blogosphere as utility pastes. Thee types oof posts ussually are often a "Top 10 Ways In order to." or "The 7 Things You need To." method on. All
    off these great this iis because they arre not just easy to read, but additionally useful for that reader too.

    Getting online traffic can manifest as a challenge, but at finish of
    the day it tend to be very profitable. Aim too please prospects and they'll
    always returning for more. More importantly always try to think quite a few marketing techniques to gain payday loans no faxing exposure.

Leave a comment

airs logo

Association of Internet Research Specialists is the world's leading community for the Internet Research Specialist and provide a Unified Platform that delivers, Education, Training and Certification for Online Research.

Get Exclusive Research Tips in Your Inbox

Receive Great tips via email, enter your email to Subscribe.

Follow Us on Social Media

Book Your Seat for Webinar - GET 70% OFF FOR MEMBERS ONLY      Register Now