(seniorjournalism.com Exclusive) The South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) website has been hacked. The website is not down and still shows relevant information to the human eye, but its index file (the website’s main file on the server) shows link text to a “pill selling company”.
If you search for the word “Samwu” on any major search engine, the union’s website comes up as the first search results – however with a message that has nothing to do with workers’ rights. A message selling pills appears with the website address to Samwu’s website: “Great assortment of medicine by best prices! ONLY 100% quality, low prices, free samples for all orders, free doctor consultations, fast delivery”. seniorjournalism.com has searched four major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo) and the pills advert come up on all results (see photos below).
According to head of Google’s Webspam team, Matt Cutts, website owners who find that their websites are hacked should immediately contact their website’s technical person. Cutts also mentioned in a blog post that Google will not provide one-on-one services to websites that get hacked as they lack the resource to attend to every hacked website.
Hackers and web-spammers have found new ways of driving traffic to their websites or those of their clients. Instead of taking down a website and showing their messages (such as has been done with the ANC and ANCYL websites), hackers now create messages that are only seen by search engines – thus increasing their websites’ ranking and increasing traffic to their websites. These cyber criminals manage to advertise their services on a website without the site owner’s consent.
“If you visit a page like http://www.example.com/deep-url-path/ and don’t see the pill links, that means the hackers are being extra-sneaky and only showing the spammy pill links to Google. We provide a free tool for that situation as well. It’s called “Fetch as Googlebot” and it lets you send Google to your website and will show you exactly what we see. I would recommend this blog post http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/11/generic-cialis-on-my-website-i-think-my.html describing how to use that tool, because your situation looks quite similar,” Cutts said in the aforementioned blog post.
Cutts have this advice for site owners “the single best piece of advice I can give to prevent website hacking is ‘keep your web server software up-to-date and fully patched.’ That prevention is much better than the hassle of cleaning up a hack”.