Vulnerabilities / Threats

1/21/2011
02:58 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Google Acknowledges Web Spam Complaints

Low-quality content has some Internet users worried about the relevance of Google search results.

Google on Friday tried to quell grumblings about the quality of its search results.

In recent months, prominent bloggers and tech news sites have noted many instances in which Google searches returned poor results. Programmer Jeff Atwood, who runs the popular Coding Horror blog, characterized the volume of complaints as "deafening" lately.

The issue is Web spam. Google principle engineer Matt Cutts, who runs Google's Web spam team, defines Web spam as "the junk you see in search results when Web sites try to cheat their way into higher positions in search results or otherwise violate search engine quality guidelines."

Web spam is a critical issue for Google, perhaps to the point that it imperils Google's search business. If low-quality content continues to find prominent placement in Google's search results and generates enough revenue -- through Google ads, third-party ads, or direct sales -- to fund further Web spam creation, users will slowly but surely turn to other means of content discovery. Social search is often mentioned as a contender in this scenario, which explains why the rise of Facebook has Google worried.

What makes Web spam particularly pernicious is that it's not as easy to identify as malware. Web spam runs the gamut, from blatant attempts to trick Google with unlawfully copied content and repeated search keywords to low-quality writing produced by so-called "content farms."

Cutts's response to the growing chorus of criticism is simultaneously to deny the accuracy of the complaints and to offer assurance that further steps to stamp out Web spam are being taken. Google's search quality is "better than it has ever been in terms of relevance, freshness and comprehensiveness," he insists, even as he acknowledges there has been "a slight uptick of spam in recent months," which Google's engineers are addressing.

Cutts cites a number of steps Google has taken to beat back Web spam, to identify hacked sites, and to alter its search algorithm to deemphasize low-quality Web sites. And he stresses the fact that being a Google advertising client doesn't buy a better search rank.

Cutts concedes that Google can and should do better, even as he suggests that users' perception of the prevalence of Web spam may be the result of "skyrocketing expectations."

The trouble is that Web spammers are trying to do better too.

If Google is to prevail, it may have to look beyond the security arms race, where stalemates rather than victories seem to be the norm, and forgo some ad revenue in order to starve the content farms that feed from Google's trough.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
1.9 Billion Data Records Exposed in First Half of 2017
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  9/20/2017
To Be Ready for the Security Future, Pay Attention to the Security Past
Liz Maida, Co-founder, CEO & CTO, Uplevel Security,  9/18/2017
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Jan, check this out! I found an unhackable PC.
Current Issue
Security Vulnerabilities: The Next Wave
Just when you thought it was safe, researchers have unveiled a new round of IT security flaws. Is your enterprise ready?
Flash Poll
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
Enterprises are spending more of their IT budgets on cybersecurity technology. How do your organization's security plans and strategies compare to what others are doing? Here's an in-depth look.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.