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Security Research

Fake Stores On Other Search Engines

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JULIEN SOBRIER
August 31, 2011 - 2 min read
A few weeks ago, I showed that even search engines focused on eliminating spam from their search results fail to remove spam pages leading to fake online stores. I was curious to get a broader pictures of how different search engines deal with this issue. Since the fake stores exist in several languages (English, French, German, etc.), this issue affects web users in many countries.

I decided to check how spam pages for "Buy Windows 7 key" (or its translation) are displayed in the first two pages (20 results) for various search engines. For reference, the numbers for the 3 main search engines in the US are:
  • Google: 7 + 5 = 12
  • Bing: 5 + 5 = 10
  • Yahoo: 6 + 8 = 14

Russia
  • Yandex: 10 + 10 = 20
Yandex contains a lot of blackhat spam in general, much more than Google and not just for fake stores. While Google has cleaned up search results for popular queries, especially spam leading to fake AV pages, I have seen no progress on Yandex.
 
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Yandex shows only spam pages leading to fake stores in the first 2 pages

China
  • Baidu: 10 + 10 = 20
A lot of the spam pages are hosted on Chinese websites (for example):
  • hxxp://nimende.com/notcjjff83/2011/08/29/ubuntu-10-04-lts-debut/
  • hxxp://bbs.52pk.com/thread-4913231-1-1.html
  • etc.
 
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Spam pages and fake stores on Baidu

Germany Yahoo.de and Bing.de show very similar search results. The first result page shows mostly spam pages hosted on German sites, while the second pages contain spam in German languages on US .edu sites.

 
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Yahoo.de gives worse results than the US site
Italy
  • Google.it: 9 + 4 = 13 (only 4 search results on the second page)
  • Yahoo.it: 0
 
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Italian spam pages on Google.it

France Voila.fr and Google.fr give priority to web sites located in France. Most of the hijacked sites hosting spam are US University sites, hence they get a lower ranking.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is a a one-man search engine that is gaining a lot of attention in the start up community. All results appear on the same page. Out of the first 20 results, 12 are spam pages.
 
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The first 3 results on DuckDuckGo, all spam

As can be seen from the results, blackhat SEO spam is a global problem, not just one affecting the popular US based search engines. In fact, overall, the US seems to be in slightly better shape than some countries
such as Russia, China and Germany that may not yet have suffered the same battle scars in this fight.

-- Julien
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