SEO poisoning –


Search engine optimization (SEO) poisoning and malicious advertising (malvertising) have increased dramatically as more people use search engines than ever before. SEO poisoning affects individuals and organizations, but many are unaware of the security risks it poses.

This article discusses SEO poisoning—how it works, detection and prevention methods, and mitigation strategies.

SEO poison defined.

SEO poisoning is a technique used by threat actors to increase the popularity of their malicious websites, making them appear more authentic to users. SEO poisoning tricks the human mind into thinking that the top scorers are the most credible and is most effective when people fail to look closely at their search results. This can lead to credential theft, malware infection and financial loss.

Threat actors can use targeted SEO poisons, such as spear-phishing, to target specific users, such as IT administrators. The technique allows attackers to target and tailor their attacks to specific audiences, making them more challenging to detect and prevent.

How SEO poison works

Malicious actors use various methods to perform SEO poisoning. It is a common method TypingIt targets users who open their browser and enter a web address, which has an unknown typo or clicks a link with an incorrect URL. To exploit these minor user mistakes, attackers register domain names that look like legitimate ones.

Let’s look at an example. A user searches for TeamViewer (a program that allows remote communication with computers) by typing “teamviewer” into their search bar. The user may hit the first result without looking at the URL carefully and be directed to a fake website where they are asked to download files infected with malware.

Typing domains are often featured at the top of search results, where users can click on them.

Search Results

An example of seo poisoning on search engine results

Blackhat SEO

Blackhat SEO It deals with unethical methods used by website owners to increase search engine rankings, such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, search ranking manipulation, and using private link networks.

  • Keyword stuffingCramming irrelevant keywords into the website’s text, meta tags, or other parts of the website to mislead search engine algorithms.
  • Dressing: Presenting visitors to a different search engine than what appears to the user when they click a link. This tactic affects search engine rankings by showing irrelevant content to users while displaying useful information to visitors.
  • Setting the search levelArtificially increasing the website’s click-through rate to increase its ranking in search engines. This technique uses bots or humans to search for keywords and generate fake clicks to a specific website.
  • Using private link networks: Creating a group of unrelated websites and linking them together will result in a network of backlinks to the main website. This is also a method of artificially boosting search engine results as it seeks to mimic legitimate link building practices.

Recent SEO poisoning campaigns

There were several events in January 2023. Fake installers are distributed through SEO poisoning or spamming.. Cybercriminals use poisoned Google ads to drop Python-based malware and steal information such as browser passwords and encrypted wallets.

Fake installers and SEO poisons remain popular with criminals for delivering malware. For example, recent incidents have involved fake installers for OBS Studio or Notepad++ malware that loads sensitive data.

How to find SEO poison

Detecting SEO poisoning can be difficult, but organizations can better prepare themselves by implementing typo detection procedures using digital risk management tools. As soon as a new-looking URL is created, DRM can notify security personnel of the owner’s information.

Another way to identify malicious URLs is to use IOC lists containing URLs to provide evidence of suspicious website behavior, abnormal search engine rankings, phishing attempts, unexpected changes in website traffic, and suspicious content. The list can be used as a watch list or block list to detect or block the list in advance.

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions are a great way to quickly identify IOCs because they monitor and record user and customer history. EDR tools can perform forensic analysis to determine whether a malicious file has entered the system and examine all user activity during a breach. By evaluating these data points, security teams can detect and catch SEO poisoning attacks.

How to prevent SEO poisoning

In addition to monitoring methods, organizations can take proactive steps to prevent SEO poisoning attacks.

User security training and awareness

User security training and awareness are critical in combating SEO poisoning attempts. Organizations can reduce their chances of falling victim to these attacks by training employees in safe browsing practices, phishing awareness, and effective endpoint security measures.

Internal security position

Implementing a strong internal security posture and blocking known malicious sites can help prevent SEO poisoning attempts. Organizations can reduce the risk of employees visiting dangerous websites by frequently updating security software and establishing strict web filtering procedures.

Disclosure of unusual SEO results

Regularly reporting unusual SEO results to your security team allows for quick identification and response to any SEO fraud attempts. It can also ensure that the company can actively maintain its search engine ranking and online reputation.

How to reduce SEO toxicity

To reduce the risk of SEO poisoning attacks, organizations can use type detection tools such as CrowdStrike Falcon Intelligence Recon to identify if their domain is being used by someone else.

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This article discusses SEO poisoning, a technique cybercriminals use to spread malware, steal credentials, and commit illegal activities. Individuals and businesses should be aware of risks and take appropriate steps to protect themselves, such as conducting regular security assessments, educating employees and customers, and implementing endpoint detection and response systems.

CrowdStrike Falcon Insight XDR is an endpoint detection and response system that includes real-time response, allowing security teams to quickly detect SEO poisoning. Check out the CrowdStrike Falcon trial to get started.

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