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Fake Blogs Use Security Fix to Support Bad Advice

The other day I was using Google's Blog Search tool to locate a news post I recalled reading a few weeks back, and on a whim decided to search under my name. Turns out that most of the results link not to this blog but to the live Web chats I hold every other Friday.

But the bulk of the blogs referencing our chats don't appear to be sites run by technology and security enthusiasts. All signs indicate that they are automatically generated blogs that borrow content from our online discussions to add legitimacy to sites that appear to do nothing but collect referral revenue for recommending marginally effective anti-spyware tools -- the kind of software that I have generally urged readers to avoid.

To see for yourself, check out this Google Blog search request, which is sorted by date. Most of these blogs do not even follow simple blog etiquette of linking back to the blog post from which the blurb was taken, and instead include a link to "blogs.washingtonpost.com," a placeholder page that lists two dozen washingtonpost.com Web logs covering topics ranging from politics to D.C.-area night spots.

Of the hundreds of blogs I looked at that were "linking" to Security Fix, nearly all were entirely self-referential. Most of their links take you to a maze of other pages on the same site, no doubt designed to drive up the fake-blog's page rank in Google search results. If they do link to outside sources, they will link to one or two anti-spyware products that either aren't worth a fraction of what they cost or have earned a reputation for marketing by scaring people into thinking -- often falsely -- that they have massive spyware infections on their computers.

A number of the fake blogs include links to a program called "Viral Instigator," which claims to help users automate the process of creating these pseudo-blogs and to game Google's AdSense program to make oodles of cash littering the Web with completely useless sites. The software's author claims the product works at "super fast speed" and "can generates [sic] 70 blog sites in an hour."

The software uses Google's Blogger.com service to swipe content from a variety of news sources so that the pages appear to be updated by the site owner each day. In a promotional video, the author claims that in just two weeks users can generate up to 45,000 pages indexed by Google, and that by gaming Google's AdSense program a certain way, users can expect to earn $100 a day, or about $3,000 a month creating these incredibly useful and interesting blogs.

I suppose I should not be surprised at the growth of these types of blogs (to me they look an awful lot like advertising/spamming blogs, so it's tempting to label them spam blogs or "splogs"). Blog aggregator Technorati recently released stats showing that roughly 75,000 new blogs are created each day -- or at a rate of about one per second of every day.

Those numbers don't speak to the quality of those blogs, but Technorati did measure the frequency with which the new blogs were updated: It found that about 55 percent of bloggers were still posting to their sites three months after they were created, which it said was an increase "in both absolute and relative terms over just 3 months ago, when only 50.5% or 13.7 million blogs were active." Wonder how much of that activity is due to wonderful innovations such as Viral Instigator?

It is this kind of activity that makes me worry about the future viability of the online advertising industry, the same business that ultimately pays my salary. It is difficult to see the benefit that these fake blogs hold for anyone but their creators, and I sincerely hope Google is taking steps to keep these kinds of sites from diluting their search results.

By the way, we are having another Security Fix Live chat tomorrow, which I'm sure will be duly indexed by all of these pseudoblogs the minute it's over. If you'd like to drop a question into the hopper between now and then, please feel free.

By Brian Krebs  |  June 8, 2006; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  Latest Warnings  
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