For the last few years especially, the web has taken off as the delivery method for world news. You can get your local, or world news quicker and you can form a more complete picture quicker now than ever before. Occasionally old media methods, radio, newspaper, or television, come out with a story or report that makes me do two main things. The first I do is shake my head at how common sense the reports often are, and the second is a realization that in order for there to be a story, it meant someone had made a fuss over it.
The news story which stuck in my mind the last couple of days came from a report that security experts were warning users of search engine poisoning, and how if you’re not careful you could hit a bad link. The security company (and I use that term loosely) even said that search engine poisoning is 3 times more likely to infect a computer with malware than opening an email with a tainted attachment. It wasn’t the report so much that makes me wonder about computer users out there, but it does shine some light on how far behind some companies are where the web is concerned.
The real problem I have with these types of reports are the hype they generate, and the disinformation they can spread. Search engine poisoning isn’t a new trend in cyber warfare, it’s been happening for years now. It’s not a new method that suddenly popped up because people stopped clicking on email attachments. The black hat manipulators out there have been gaming the search listings for highly popular terms almost as long as the web has been available. Trending topics are most often the usual suspects that are targeted, whether it’s a celebrity story, or holiday gift ideas. The search engines are getting better at catching the offenders out there, but just like the police can’t catch every bad guy out there, neither can Google or Bing stop all of the bad results from getting through.
Instead of relying on antivirus software and firewalls to protect your computer, you should take some time to practice safe search methods. And always remember, if the text of that little blue link sounds too good to be true, then it most likely is.