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Attackers Use Google Search Console to Hide Website Hacks

15/09/2015 by Sharon Shahzad


Google Search Console, known until May 2015 as Google Webmaster Tools, has been abused by malicious actors to improve blackhat search engine optimization (SEO) techniques and hide their presence on hijacked websites.

Cyber criminals often hijack legitimate websites for the benefit of their spam and malware operations. They are also increasingly abusing legitimate webmaster tools, researchers at web security company Sucuri warned last week.

Google Search Console is useful for webmasters because it allows them to improve search result performance and quickly identify configuration and security issues. However, the features offered by the Google webmaster tool can also be highly useful to attackers.

They can use the console to collect statistics on their campaigns (e.g. clicks, search result stats, impressions), submit sitemaps to make their spammy pages easier to find by Google and possibly pass them off as legitimate, receive notifications when their hack is detected, and unverify legitimate owners to prevent them from learning that their website has been compromised.

As Sucuri pointed out, cybercriminals can easily verify ownership of a hijacked website in Google Search Console. There are several ways they can do this, but the most popular method seen by researchers involves uploading an HTML file provided by Google to the hijacked website. By having access to the site, they don’t need to hack the legitimate owner’s Google account to gain “owner” status in Search Console.

Google allows each website to have multiple owners. However, when a new owner is verifier, all existing owners receive a notification email which informs them that a new user has been added.

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Montash is a multi-award winning global technology recruitment business. Specialising in permanent and contract positions across mid-senior appointments across a wide range of industry sectors and IT functions, including:

ERP Recruitment, BI & Data Recruitment, Information Security Recruitment, Enterprise Architecture & Strategy Recruitment , Energy Technology Recruitment, Demand IT and Business Engagement Recruitment, Digital and E-commerce Recruitment, Leadership Talent, Infrastructure and Service Delivery Recruitment, Project and Programme Delivery Recruitment.

Montash is headquartered in Old Street, London, in the heart of the technology hub. Montash has completed assignments in over 30 countries and has appointed technical professionals from board level to senior and mid-management in permanent and contract roles. 

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