We recently discussed how J.C. Penney used the unethical practice of black-hat optimization to appear first in Google searches during the 2010 holiday season. While recent attention has been spent on cracking down on content farms, this was still a very surprising instance of Internet marketing being abused, but a more recent incident of black-hat optimization is absolutely appalling.

Moments after the 8.9 earthquake hit the lands of Japan last week; Malware writers were using black-hat search engine manipulation to make sure their links were at the top of people’s searches, according to a blog by trendmicro.com. These links were filled with fake anti-virus software, which potentially can harm your computer. Trend Micro started monitoring the problem within moments of the earthquake, and were very surprised to see Malware’s shocking actions so quickly.

There were more than 50 countries that could have been potentially affected by the earthquake and tsunami, including the U.S. This obviously caused a mass amount of people to check the Internet for the most up-to-the-date information regarding the earthquake devastation, and tsunami warnings. This, along with people just looking up general news about the tragedy in Japan, helped Malware (and companies alike) to infiltrate random users with their fake anti-virus software. It’s obvious these cyber-criminals have no moral values, and no respect for people who are mourning this tragic event.

A search, which Trend Micro tested, was “most recent earthquake in Japan.” The search would return with multiple fake anti-virus software, including Mal_FakeAV-25 software, which is the software Trend Micro believes is the most common fake anti-virus software being linked to the Japan earthquake disaster.

Experts state that you should use your most trusted media outlets, and try to sway away from random searches. This isn’t the first time people have used national tragedies to practice black-hat optimization. Last year, after the 6.0 earthquake in the Philippines, fake anti-software sites were linked to the Philippines earthquake, as well as right after Haiti earthquake.

The people at Micro Trend forecast a high increase in this type of black-hat optimization, but those who do, risk the wrath of Google and other search engine companies. Using a country’s national tragedy and pain to improve the optimization of their organization’s website, is not only unethical, it’s cruel! Shame on these fake anti-virus software companies for exploiting such a tragedy, hopefully karma will come back around and teach them a lesson.

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