SEP: Bitten by Search

July 15, 2011

Search Engine Poisoning: One More Thing To Worry About,” declares Network Computing. Though Search Engine Poisoning (SEP) has been around for a while, it is now the primary online threat according to a report from security firm Blue Coat Systems.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, SEP works by creating links that masquerade as legitimate answers to search queries. Many of these queries are ones that workers commonly use in the course of their job, so the schemes affect enterprises as well as home users.

Network Computing’s Robert Mullins elaborates:

The way SEP works is that distributors of malware maintain large ‘link farms’ where they create malicious links that represent all sorts of things people would search for online. [Tom Clare of Blue Coat] gave the example of Keen Footwear, a brand of hiking shoes. If someone searches for that brand in a search engine, as many as half of the top 10 results could be links to malware. SEP is particularly devious in that it doesn’t actually have to infect the Web site of Keen Footwear but can still trick end users.

The malefactors’ job is made easier by URLs that are vulnerable to cross-site scripting (XSS). That vulnerability allows the injection of malicious code.

We continue to look with skepticism on the search engine optimization business. We think that Google wants SEO professionals to optimize their pages and then, if traffic falters, feel really good about herding the traffic thirsty Web masters toward Adwords.

Stephen E Arnold, July 14, 2011

Sponsored by, publishers of The New Landscape of Enterprise Search


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