SEO Poisoning Attacks on HHS

SEO Poisoning Attacks on Rise in Health Sector

The increase in SEO poisoning attacks is posing significant threats to the Health Sector, with hackers acquiring highly confidential data of the organizations. In response to this alarming trend, the U.S. Department of Health, and Human Services Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center (HHS HC3) has issued a warning about these threats.

As the digitization of the healthcare industry has made it an attractive target for cybercriminals. The HHS HC3 alert about the manipulation of search engine results, such as Google, to redirect users to attacker-controlled websites. These websites are made to either engage in ad fraud activities or infect visitors with malware. This results in financial losses to credential theft or physical harm to patients.

Example of SEO Poisoning AttackSource: SentinelOne

Sophisticated Techniques Involved in SEO Poisoning Attacks

The hackers in SEO poisoning attacks implement various techniques to boost their search engine rankings and trap the users. The techniques involved as mentioned in the HC3 report:

  • Keyword Stuffing: Cramming irrelevant keywords into webpage content or meta tags to fool search engine algorithms into giving the website a higher ranking.
  • Cloaking: Presenting different content to search engine crawlers compared to what the user sees when clicking on the link. In order to favor search engine ranking.
  • Manipulating search ranking: Artificially rising a website’s click-through rate to raise its ranking in search engines.
  • Using private link networks: Creating a group of unrelated websites and connecting them together, resulting in a network of backlinks to a main website. This is also a method of increasing search engine results.

In addition to common attacks, threat actors also use spear-phishing attacks. This allows hackers to customize their specific audiences, making it harder to identify and defend.

Prevention and Countermeasures

SEO poisoning attacks can be challenging to detect and prevent. However, there are actions organizations can take to better guard themselves.

The recommendations given by HHS HC3 include implementing typo squatting detection procedures by using digital risk monitoring tools to recognize malicious websites with similar domain names. Furthermore, having lists of indicators of compromise can help detect and block malicious URLs.

Updating security software and applying robust web filtering procedures are also critical steps to escalate defense against such attacks. Additionally, educating staff on safe browsing practices, phishing awareness, and endpoint security measures is essential in diminishing the risks of SEO poisoning.

Ultimately, the goal is to protect patient data and ensure the integrity of healthcare services against SEO poisoning attacks.

For more news and updates on Cybersecurity, visit The Cybersecurity Club.

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