Technology

Summary. Hackers have recently been manipulating search engine results and content ratings.

On 3 June 2011, we saw an example of this on YouTube. Under the Most Viewed category for This Week, in position #12 with 4.8 million views was a 31 second commercial for Dish network. Click here, or the image to the right, for an enlarged view of the top-12 listings.

Videos making it into the top 12 list would usually have 90% or higher positive ratings. This one had 93% negative ratings, yet it continued to be featured as a popular video.

Much of the authenticity and usefulness of the Internet is based on ratings that allow quality content to rise to the surface. It’s how we find meaningful information that’s relevant to us. Whether a person is searching Google, or looking at the most popular photos and video content, they expect to get quality content.

Getting your video to show up in YouTube’s most viewed list is very valuable. It’s still unclear how hackers plan to use this new found skill. Will they sell ranking positions? Or, perhaps, they will charge fees to manipulate the top 10 listings of different sites by pushing some content higher while also being able to drag other content down in the listings. Hackers often have a message they are trying to convey to the world. Being able to record a message, and broadcast it to the entire (connected) population is a powerful ability. Presumably, a rogue group of hackers could get top bidding on YouTube to have their video manifesto or message conveyed to the world.

Another similar technique is to put a popular photo on a malicious web page. Then get that photo to the top of Google’s image search results. When people click on the image, it takes them to the malicious web page.

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