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April 06, 2005

Fooling the search engines -- and the rest of us

I often wonder how someone gets up in the morning thinking about nothing but how better to deceive, trick and scam people out of hard earned money, time and sanity; but we all know that there are people who do that. Anyone who's has a victim of malware/adware knows this.  Thankfully, products like SpyBot and AdAware help counter the malefactors' efforts.

My surprise tonight came from seeing a new practice - new to me, anyway.  As my wife and I worked away on our respective laptops, she suddenly began uttering words of frustration at a web page that would only stay visible for a moment before being replaced by a marketing site - an  "Asian Import Export Portal."   What was odd is that she was looking at an Open Directory page she found via a Google search.  If she were using Internet Explorer, I'd suspect a worm/malware of some kind, but this was Firefox, and the system is kept tightly secured.

A bit of investigation revealed the reason for the mystery behavior -- the site operator has copied the entire Open Directory from dmoz.org into their own site.  Then they've added a Javascript to the page that will, after one second, forward the user to a new URL - the aforementioned "Asian Import Export Portal."  (Honestly -- do these people think for a moment that this will increase their sales?)

The site is at http://www.bizviet.net/directory/index.php/Reference/Encyclopedias/ (deliberately not linked so as not to help to enhance their ranking).  To view it, first disable Javascript in your browser, else you'll only see it for a second.  They do reference Open Directory and (technically) they link to it, not that users can find or use that link in the one second it appears before they are jarringly shuttled off to never-never land.  We tried to let the dmoz.org folks know about the issue, but there's no contact info for anyone on their site.  We have notified Google, since they are sometimes inclined to clean up deliberately misleading results in their index.

Technically the villain here appears to have satisfied the DMOZ license by providing attribution.  It's a sad thing - apparently legal, but designed to annoy, frustrate, and misguide users.  Sounds like just the kind of company you'd want to do business with, eh?

Posted by larryb at 06:46 AM [permanent link]
Category: Misc
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