Hackers Hijack University, Government Websites
The websites of some of the nation's top universities were recently hijacked to redirect Web surfers to fake online stores selling everything from computer software to student visas and Viagra, according to the security firm Zscaler. Governmental sites were also targeted.
In a report issued yesterday (Jan. 12), Zscaler found that portions of websites belonging to Harvard, MIT and Stanford University were all compromised, rigged to send traffic to more than 75 different rogue online stores with names such as softsupreme.net, buysupreme.net and soft-buydownload.net, many of which peddled software including Microsoft Windows 7.
The movie site Fandango was also hacked, as were several government sites including openworld.gov, paceflorida.gov and fpa.tas.gov.au, which regulates forestry in Tasmania.
The Zscaler report said that the cyberattacks focused on keywords with a prominent presence in Google's search results, such as "buy Windows 7" and "purchase Microsoft Word."
Julien Sobrier, senior security researcher at Zscaler, told SecurityNewsDaily that attacks like these often remain undetected for a long time, because the sites themselves don't look different -- it's only when people enter the rigged keywords into the search engine that the are taken to the bogus online stores.
Such malicious campaigns are called blackhat or poisoned SEO attacks, in which scammers fool search engines into ranking corrupted links at the top of the search results for a given term.
Blackhat SEO scams often pop up around holidays, when large groups of people are looking online for a specific item, or when there's a breaking news item that draws mass interest online.
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