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Southern Religion

Baptist Viagra hacks

Google Baptist Viagra and among the 204,000 results you will find legitimate churches, educational institutions, pastor blogs, publications and the like in abundance which have been hacked to include “invisible” links which promote the search-engine rank of pharmaceutical marketing sites. You will also find a few sites which have been co-opted to promote pharmaceutical sales directly, usually in the comment space of blog software.

Historically, hundreds of British government, school and university Web sites and major U.S. universities, political candidates and some years ago even Al Gore’s ClimageCrisis site have been victims of such hacks.

That was probably of no comfort last week to Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga., when references to viagra were discovered amid its home page meta tags.

Search results might even be read as implying some sort of calculated effort to embarrass the school.

It was their plight which provoked this blog post.

At Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ar., old Viagra marketing hacks, possibly once commented out, have become visible on their site as if they were news stories. [Update: A site search also indicates 240+ pages with “invisible” links.]

Unfortunately for large sites like Ouachita, old hacks left over from earlier deployments may be difficult to find and remove as the site goes through cycles of redesign and redeployment.

Whereas with a site like Ethics Daily and most of the other apparently afflicted Baptist sites we examined, old and recently-added, hidden/unwelcome search-engine promotion links may appear to be pervasive, yet remain invisible except via search engine results and close examination of the source code of offending pages.

Simply searching on “Viagra” may not reveal the links on an infected site. Even for this glance at the issue we used “allegra,” “carisoprodol,” “valium,” “viagra” and “xanax.”

To use Google to examine your own site for those and other inserted links, you can compose a simple search string using the general form:

site:sitename.com keyword

If yours is a “.org,” “.net” or other generic top-level domain (gTLD) or a country code top-level domain (ccTLD), substitute that for “.com”.

An examination of the source code is usually required to winnow results which merely mention one of the words in their authored content from those which are blighted by unwelcome injections.

Even a passing discussion of correction is beyond the scope of this article.

Blogs were once notoriously vulnerable, and even well-defended sites my still by quite vulnerable if users autoapprove comments. Indeed, if they have ever auto-approved comments, ugly surprises may await site owners in the archives.

Specifically, our glance Baptist blog comments suggests that some conservative Baptist bloggers would benefit from scanning for comments which promote bogus bodily enhancement and performance enhancement products.

This is just a quick warning for the unaware.

We’ll given the issue a closer, more technical examination later.

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January 3, 2010 - Posted by | WWW | , ,

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