The websites of NASA, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Mint are among government organizations spammed by Black Hat SEO attacks.
Cyber criminals use the websites of reputable organizations to promote spam and links. They piggyback on sites with a high domain authority so they will get seen at the top of Google searches, according to cybersecurity company NordVPN, who recommends threat protection.
Hackers are exploiting the prominence of trusted domain names like .gov to gain exposure for their material.
NASA is among the latest victims of this practice. One of its websites has 241 links to Chinese casino sites and adult material. Nearly 3,5000 web pages linked to the NIH were also affected, and the U.S. Mint, Medicaid portal and even the U.S. Geological Survey have been targeted, according to NordVPN.
“Websites with a prestigious domain name like NASA’s will always be a big draw for hackers, who have worked out that Black Hat SEO is an easy way to hide malicious material in plain sight,” said Adrianus Warmenhoven, a NordVPN cybersecurity advisor. “Many government organizations like the U.S. Mint and the National Institutes of Health have been targeted. While it might seem fairly harmless, the effects can be serious.”
An investigation by NordVPN also revealed that the websites of Stanford, Harvard and Columbia universities had been flooded with thousands of malicious links in attacks by Black Hat SEO hackers.
“Rogue links can harm unwary visitors in a variety of ways. Not only can they take them to other webpages where they can be scammed or access illegal content, but they can also infect their gadgets with malware, which can steal their data or take over the entire device,” said Warmenhoven.