Word Notes 6.6.23
Ep 151 | 6.6.23

SEO poisoning (noun)


Rick Howard: The word is: SEO poisoning

Rick Howard: Spelled: S as in search, E as in engine, O as in optimization and poisoning for a corruption.

Rick Howard: Definition: The manipulation of search engine optimization, SEO, to promote malicious sites in search engine results.

Rick Howard: Example sentence: SEO poisoning was used to make the fishing site show up at the top of Google's search results.

Rick Howard: Origin and context: search engine optimization, SEO, is a legitimate process used by websites to improve their visibility in search engines. For example, a website that shows up on the first page of a Google search will typically get many more visits than a site on the second page. The process is intended to help search engines offer more relevant and useful search results.

Rick Howard: However, attackers can abuse the process by performing a Waldo. They stuff their fake websites with popular keywords for search engines to discover in order to artificially inflate traffic to their malicious sites. According to the Wordnik website, a Waldo is a remote manipulation system in which a slave device mimics the motions of a master device manipulated directly by the operator. American author Robert A. Heinlein coined the term in a science fiction story he published in the 1940s in November, 2022. For example, threat actors used nearly 15,000 compromised websites to redirect users to phony Q&A forums,, which artificially made them seem popular. Bleeping, computer believes the attackers were planning to use those forums as malware, droppers, or fishing sites. An earlier instance of SEO poisoning occurred in 2014 when attackers created malicious websites that targeted users seeking to download Microsoft Office.

Rick Howard: Nerd Reference: In 2013, the British TV series, the Black Mirror, broadcast an episode called The Waldo Moment. Bryce Edward Brown published a critical analysis of that episode in 2021, where he describes the origin of the word.

Bryce Edward Brown: A Waldo is another name for a remote manipulator. A hand like mechanism someone operates to control a machine or computer image like a puppet. The actual term Waldo originated from Robert A. Heinlein 1942 short story Waldo, about a guy named Waldo, who is extremely weak, but uses his money and intelligence to build a very powerful robot that he controls by using a glove and a harness to get even more.

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