“Steve Jobs funeral” – Dangerous search results

The news that one of the most important people to the technology development for the last 30 year had passed away in cancer hadn’t been publicly known for more than an hour or so before the first scam sites started showing up in the search engine results. The vultures where already profiting from the death of Steve Jobs.

The search term “Steve Jobs funeral” in for example Google delivered earlier this week the full first page of results with scam sites of various types. One site for example is trying to catch the visitors email address and earn money from affiliate links at the same time (read more at F-Secure). And this is probably one of the more harmless sites trying to make a quick buck on Steve since it’s not distributing maleware or something, but it’s sickening anyway.

We’ve seen this before as soon as something big happens, like for example the earthquake and tsunami in Japan earlier this year (see Trendmicro). The sad thing is that we will see it again and again and again for as long as these people can make a quick buck.

Google is of course fighting this kind of SEO poisoning with two teams, the Security Team to update Google Safe Browsing (used by most web browsers like Firefox and Chrome) and the Spam Team cleaning the search index. At the moment they catch about 44% of the fake sites, and they are doing a fantastic job, but I don’t think it’s enough.

These sites will pop up as long as they can earn money from it and the site I wrote about above (stevejobsfuneral.com) had affiliate links. In this case it’s not only Google’s responsibility to block this site, but also the company providing the affiliate program that make it possible for scam sites like this to earn money. Google is doing a good job, but more companies must start working like Google to make sure we can fight this.

Update: The site stevejobsfuneral.com isn’t working any more, so I guess some more than Google has done a good job ­čśë

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Merideth Obstfeld says: