Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

SEO Blog

SpyWare: Keystroke Loggers Can Rob You

I’ve been warning clients and others for a long time about the need to be protected from viruses, trojans, spyware, and so forth. Here’s a piece of news from SecurityProNews that illustrates how serious this kind of thing can be:

An attempted bank robbery in Britain has raised a number of questions concerning the possibility of using keystroke-capturing software to help carry out such a scheme.

London Police, finishing an investigation that began in October, foiled what is being referred to as “Britain’s largest attempted bank robbery.” The investigation revealed computer experts were attempting to electronically transfer £ 220 million (around $420 million) from the Japanese bank Sumitomo Mitsui to 10 different bank accounts located around the globe.

According to the BBC, the thieves managed to infiltrate the system with keystroke logging software that would have enabled them to track every button pressed on computer keyboards. From that they could learn account numbers, passwords and other sensitive information.

The attempt on Sumitomo Mitsui marks one of the first recorded attempts at using malicious software in order to defraud such a large financial institution.

    Tip:
    We all need the following security precautions

  • At least two Anti-Spyware progams with one running in the background to intercept new infections
  • Hardware firewall
  • Software firewall
  • AntiVirus with definitions updated often
  • AntiSpam software

Spammy Web Hosting Companies

When you choose a web hosting company, you don’t expect that they are going to change your web pages. You also don’t expect that they change your web pages for their own benefit. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what some web hosts seem to do.

What do these web hosts do to your web pages?

These web hosting companies change your web pages when a search engine spider requests them. For example, if Googlebot visits your web pages, the web host will return a different web page than the web page that is returned when a normal web surfer visits your web pages (a technique with the name cloaking).

The changed web pages contain links to the web host web site so that the link popularity of the web host site is improved. In addition, the web host creates new page and complete sub directories full of links on your web site.
Note that these changed URLs and the new pages cannot be seen by you. The URLs are not static and you cannot see them with your FTP client. Only search engine spiders can see the changed web pages because the web host intercepts the requests and dynamically creates the pages.

Some hosts also seem to add links to some of their clients on your web pages. They do this to artificially improve the link popularity of their clients’ sites. If you see any Secret backdoor to Google offers from your web host without further details, you should be skeptical. If a web host changes the web sites of other people, it is likely that they will also change your web site.

How can you find out if your web host changes your web pages?

Go to Google, search for your domain name and click on the “Cached” link next to the results. You’ll see the web page that Google has indexed there. If the web page in the Google page has links to other web pages that you don’t know, chances are that your web host has changed your pages. In that case, you should contact your web host or Google so that the problem can be solved.

Web hosting companies with ethical business standards don’t use these techniques. If you find out that your web host changes your pages, you should consider a new hosting company.

Tip / Warning:
If Google finds out that your web site uses cloaking, you will get into trouble, even if the cloaking has been done by your web host and not by you.

Search Engine Spam

Some SEO firms use techniques that may give their clients a fast bump to the top of the rankings but which violate the search engines’ terms of use. An example is stuffing keywords into a page but making them the same color as the background (for instance, white text on a white page) so that humans looking at the web page don’t see them but the search engines do. This kind of thing is unfair to web sites that play by the rules, and often results in web sites gaining high rankings for keywords that aren’t truly relevant for the web site.

The search engines don’t like this, for obvious reasons. And if they become aware of it, they’ll penalize the offending web site. If you’ve done everything possible to make your web page relevant for a critical keyword phrase, you have great content, and your link popularity is competitive, yet you can’t seem to get those high rankings, take a look at the sites that do get the top rankings.

Are they spamming the search engines?

Search engine spam is “pages created deliberately to trick the search engine into offering inappropriate, redundant, or poor quality search results” according to Tim Mayer, VP of Web Search at Yahoo. Here are a few types of search engine spam:

  • Unrelated keywords
  • Hidden text
  • Hidden links
  • Duplicate pages
  • Doorway or gateway pages
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Gibberish
  • Teeny, tiny text
  • Link farms
  • Redirects
  • Cloaking
  • Page swapping (showing one page to visitors but another to the search engines)

In her presentation at the Search Engine Strategies Conference in NYC Shari Thurow of Grantastic Designs claims this to be her favorite quote from Google: “Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles listed above will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.”Google Webmaster Guidelines]

If your competitors are cheating with search engine spam, that doesn’t force you to do the same thing to compete. Bad idea! Instead, consider turning them in. Drop a little note to the search engine pointing out what the web site has done that seems to be at odds with the search engine’s guidelines. If you’re right and your competition has flagrantly defied the guidelines, their rankings will probably be adjusted by the search engines, giving you a chance to compete honestly for those high rankings. Here’s where you can do that:

Welcome!

Well, here we are, starting a blog. I feel like we’re somehow behind the curve, not having started one sooner. What do we hope to accomplish here? Well, I’ll be posting information about Internet marketing that should be helpful to you, whether you’re a client of ours or not. I hope to provide some interesting links and some general commentary.

I attended the  Search Engine Strategies Conferencein NYC last week and picked up some neat new information that I’ll be posting here.

Tip:
How to tell where your visitors are coming from>

If you’re requesting links and want to be able to tell which people visit your site as a result of those links, simply add a little extra code to your website address in the link. For example, this link: used Cisco switches will go to the Warwick Data Systems home page, but the actual link address is this: http://www.warwickdata.com/?RankMagicBlog
so that when Alex, the owner of Warwick Data Systems checks his web log, he’ll be able to identify how many visitors arrived using that URL. Do the same thing for pay per click (PPC) ads through Google’s AdWords or Overture and you can see which individual ads are bringing in the most visitors.

Please come back and visit us frequently for more tips and discussion of topics you can use to grow your business from your web site.

Cheers!
Bill