Don’t get fooled by top rank results appearing on your search engine page as cybercriminals have realized that they can use blackhat SEO technique to spread fake Coronavirus-related information as a bait for propagating their attack campaigns.
The bigger picture
Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Baidu are some of the world’s top search engines that serve millions of internet users across the globe. In fact, these search engines pave the way to generate traffic for most websites. To be on the first page of the search results, many website owners leverage various methods for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
However, these techniques are not far from the reach of scammers who are misusing it to lure victims into visiting fake websites for different COVID-19-related scams. Termed as SEO spam or spamdexing or blackhat SEO, the method involves manipulating search engine indexes and misleading users to scam content.
SEO spamming around Coronavirus
- Given the level of anxiety around the spread of COVID-19, spammers are using it as an opportunity to pollute search results with fake and meaningless results around the disease.
- Imperva researchers observed that scammers used bad bots to malign search results with the keywords around ‘Coronavirus.’ For instance, the bad bots exploited the public’s need for relevant medical information in order to gain visits to their fake pharmacy sites.
- Several fake variations of the John Hopkins University’s COVID-19 dashboard - that look similar to the original one - were also listed by various operators. In one incident, the fake interactive map site included a number of links to a fraudulent pharmacy site.
- Search results for other keywords such as ‘que es coronavirus,’ ‘coronavirus pandemic simulation,’ ‘wuhan city china wikipedia,’ and ‘coronavirus infection precautions’ were also manipulated to attain malicious intents.
Spamming gets sophisticated
- Apart from manipulating search engine results, bad actors rely on comment spamming to trick innocent users, anxious about Coronavirus, into clicking their links.
- In a recent incident, scammers used the ‘spray-and-pray’ technique to redirect unsuspecting online users from a comments section on a random site to a hijacked site that looked like a Coronavirus information resource. The site included a copied image of a real-time map of the virus outbreak. From here, the victims were again redirected to a notorious online drugstore.
Staying on top of spam
With the COVID-19 pandemic around, SEO spam has become a frequent nuisance - as bad actors continue to make money from fake traffic or fraudulent sales. Hence, you should be always vigilant to identify such scams. It is recommended not click on any links, give information, or perform transactions, on sites that you don’t recognize.