Feeds

Google red cards Privila for gaming search engine

Articles of bad faith?

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

Google has removed Privila sites from its index after the firm was caught attempting to hoodwink the search engine giant.

Chicago-based Privila has built "portals" designed to have relatively high search engine ranking scores while presenting nothing but ads. The firm's modus operandi involves buying sites after the original owner forgets to renew a registration.

Examples in the network include wallofdove.com, previously owned by a stoner metal band called Dove; bustem.com, the one-time website of a brand-protection outfit; sailjworld.com, the former home of a Maryland sailing school; and soccerlove.com.

Privila fills these bought-in sites with custom-written material, generated by unpaid interns. These articles are strangely worded affairs, distorted so as to include the maximum number of keywords. Each site on the network contains a score of "articles" each around the 600 words mark.

These sites are promoted by link exchange spam. But following a recent refinement in the technique users who visit these sites will see nothing but banner ads, created by unpaid graphics interns, unless they set their browser’s user-agent to match that of Google’s spider. By dropping the "articles", Privila was able to fit in even more ads.

The ruse came to light after researchers at Cambridge University's Computer Lab received a link invitation spam email from a Privila-run site. Steven Murdoch of Cambridge Uni discovered 329 websites in the Privila network after he investigated the business model behind spam emails unwisely sent to his colleague, Richard Clayton.

"Curiously, the Windows Live Search, and Yahoo! spiders are presented with an almost empty page: just a header but neither adverts nor articles," Murdoch writes.

Google purged Privila sites from its index on 8 March, a day after Murdoch wrote about the scam on Cambridge University's Light the Blue Touchpaper blog. The sites remain unavailable.

We dropped Privila an email to get its take on the matters, but we're yet to hear back from the firm. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.