Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The New 'Google Search' Scam

Small and medium-sized businesses depend on the Web perhaps as much as anyone. They thus need to be mindful of the ever-evolving roster of Web scams--like a new one involving news. Most people know that search engines like Google are useful for quick research on topics in the news. Unfortunately, the bad guys aren't far behind. A search for "Bill Clinton heart attack" performed last Sunday produced the expected Google links about the former president's recent heart stent procedure. There were stories from the Los Angeles Times and ABC News, along with links to sites devoted to fighting heart disease.

However, it wasn't all what it seemed. If you clicked on the 10th item on the Google page, headlined "Bill Clinton heart attack," you were directed to another page of what appeared to be even more helpful Google results. Everything about the page--the typeface, the design--was authentic. If you looked quickly in the URL bar at the top of the page, you'd find what you might think was conclusive evidence of it being a legitimate Google page, since the URL seemed to be "" But in fact the URL had a "q," not a "g," as its first letter. The two letters look enough alike that only the most eagle-eyed would have ever noticed.

""--another of this ilk is ""--is a variation of a practice known as "typo-squatting." In its classic form, someone registers a domain that is close in spelling to a real one. When Web users inadvertently typed the wrong URL, they're directed to the typo-squatter's site, where they'd realize their mistake on account of all the ads and other attempts at easy monetization. But typo-squatters appear to be doing two things new. First, they are trying to fool you into thinking you've landed on the Web page you wanted to go to in the first place. Second, they are using tricks of "black hat" search engine optimization to get the links to their scam sites included in genuine Google search results.



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Who am I?

I am a law enforcement professional with over 35 years experience in both sworn and civilian positions. I have service in 3 different countries in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

My principal areas of expertise are: (1) Intelligence, (2) Training and Development, (3) Knowledge Management, and (4) Administration/Supervision.

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