SEO Poisoning

SEO PoisoningSearch engine optimization (SEO) poisoning is a tactic criminals use to make fake websites appear highly in Google search results to increase the likelihood they are clicked on. The tactic takes advantage of the assumption that the first search results are the correct and authentic website. Criminals use these fake sites to collect personal information, credentials, install malware, or steal money from users. Most recently, this tactic has been seen targetting the US healthcare and public health sector to the extent that the Department of Health and Human Services cybersecurity division issued an alert on the issue. Read the full alert here. 

The most common version of SEO poisoning is through the use of ads. Criminals can buy ads on Google or other social media or search engine platforms, and those ads will appear above the actual website in the search results. Criminals also use keyword stuffing in live text and meta tags to increase search engine rankings. Additionally, criminals use bots or human users to click on fake websites at a high rate to increase the ranking in the Google algorithm.

Another version of SEO poisoning is called typosquatting. Criminals register domains similar to popular websites and create convincing replica sites of the original page. If a user is typing too fast or makes a typo in the URL, they may land on a fake site and enter their credentials to log in.

These tactics are often combined with other familiar techniques like spear-phishing to target specific users. The healthcare industry remains at the top of many cybersecurity lists because of the sensitive data they store and the wide variation of cybersecurity standards across the healthcare sector.

Users should be aware of the increase in SEO poisoning, especially those in the healthcare sector, and be diligent about choosing the correct site before entering sensitive credentials.

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Posted by Charles Wright