I struggled a lot with this over the last few weeks as I thought about it more and more. I’ve known for a very long time that the SEO guys were hacking .edu websites to increase their pagerank for keywords. By getting .edu (which ranks higher than .com for instance because the domains are old and highly connected) to link to a site with the right keywords, Google is tricked into thinking the site is of higher value. Yes, Google’s algorithm really is that simple to get around, which is why there is a lot of garbage in their index now. It just took a while for the bad guys to get a large enough mass of hacked sites.
So I started messing around with search strings that would help me identify highly probably hacked sites and poof - within a few minutes I had dozens upon dozens of high value compromises:
There are millions of variants of these keywords phrases and their ilk across far greater masses of domains, but this should give you an idea of what’s possible. Some of them are truly amazingly bad. So I took it upon myself to start emailing a few that weren’t on this list but that were just as bad. You may or may not be surprised that I got almost no responses whatsoever. In fact, I only got one that was accusing me of spamming and/or ambulance chasing. Ugh! Talk about a way to make a guy want to quit being a good citizen.
But this brings up an interesting problem. Who exactly are the Internet cops? Some would argue that stopbadware which is heavily sponsored by Google is the equivalent. But it clearly sucks - given that all these were found within Google’s own index. What is the right way to alert a company that they’ve been compromised? Is it even worth bothering? Is my own site going to be viewed as a spam site with links like those above? What an ugly problem!