Chances are, you rely on a search engine, such as Google or Bing, on a pretty regular basis. But have you ever paused to wonder how the top search results managed to secure their prominent positions?
KnowBe4 warns that, unfortunately, cyber criminals can actually exploit search engine results to carry out cyberattacks. When you conduct a search, your intention is likely to click on a link leading to a relevant website. However, if you’re not cautious, you could inadvertently land on a malicious website instead.
Cybercriminals can employ search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to elevate their websites to the top of search results. Through SEO, these cybercriminals can not only lure you into clicking their links, but also gain access to your sensitive information.
What is SEO?
SEO is a tool used for enhancing a website to achieve a superior position in search results. Websites and web pages that attain higher rankings benefit from increased visibility, generating crucial clicks and views.
For most people, venturing beyond page one of search results is unlikely. If a website resides on the second or third page of search results, chances are it goes unnoticed. The majority of internet users settle for information found on the first page, even if it originates from an unfamiliar source.
How SEO is Used by Cybercriminals
In a lot of cases, website security directly impacts the SEO performance of a website, according to Search Engine Watch. Non-compliance with the security requirements can cause low rankings or even penalties from search engines.
However, cybercriminals have ways of using SEO to their advantage and boosting the ranking of their malicious websites. Knowing that many people don’t want to go beyond the first page, they will use SEO to make sure that their website ends up there.
People might think they have found the information they were looking for on the first page and end up clicking the link. Then, to gain access to a user’s full information, the malicious website might prompt them to create an account, sign up for a mailing list or enter other personal information.
Cybercriminals might also employ SEO tactics to exploit high-ranking websites. This can involve targeting established websites through cyberattacks, such as phishing emails, against employees. If an employee succumbs to the cyberattack and unknowingly divulges login credentials or other personal information, the cybercriminals gain a gateway into the targeted website. And once inside a website, the cybercriminals can embed deceptive links that redirect unsuspecting visitors to their own malicious websites.
How to Protect Yourself
Because some of these websites may seem safe at first glance, it is important to know how to protect yourself so that your information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. KnowBe4 recommends always taking a moment to stop and think before clicking on a link to a website. You might get the information you need without accessing the website, such as via snippet preview text. And if a website seems suspicious, determine if there is a more legitimate website you can visit instead.
Additionally, if you visit an unknown website, do not enter any sensitive or personal information. Instead, leave the website and try to find the information through a known, secure source. It is also important to always check the URL you are visiting. Make sure that the URL includes the same link you clicked on from the search results and that you were not redirected to a different page.
For more information on staying safe online, call TNTMAX at (201) 891-8686, email us at [email protected].