How Social Media Blacklisting Happens

Social Media Blacklists

In today’s world, we are all browsing websites online and sharing content on a multitude of social media platforms every day. Worldwide social media users exceeded 2 billion back in August 2014, with an adoption rate unlike anything we have seen in history. Social media continues to grow around the world, with active user accounts now equating to roughly 29% of the world’s population. Monthly active user (MAU) figures for the most active social network in each country add up to almost 2.08 billion – a 12% increase since January 2014.

What is Social Media Blacklisting?

Legitimate links on social media platforms are sometimes hijacked by criminals to direct visitors to a website where malware will be automatically downloaded. The more that people share and use social media, the more often these situations will occur. This is why social media platforms have specific security measures to protect their users from being victims of malicious shared content.

In the same way that websites can be blacklisted by Google for having malware hosted on their pages, social media blacklisting occurs when security triggers detect malicious activity, thus placing the infected links on their internal blacklist. Sometimes they can match the URL with the help of an external blacklist authority, such as McAfee, Google, Web of Trust, or Websense.
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My Website Was Blacklisted By Google and Distributing Email Spam

Image by Benson Kua licensed under Creative Commons

Image by Benson Kua licensed under Creative Commons

Being blacklisted is one of the worst things that can happen to a website. The public shame coming from every visitor being stopped by the Big Red Warning page can literally destroy any online business, I am speaking from personal experience before joining the Sucuri team. When a website is blacklisted, users are unable to access the website without specifically agreeing to take on the risks. As a result, blacklisted websites lose around 95% of their traffic.

The following is a true story, based on my personal experience with a blacklisted website. This is actually how I came to know of Sucuri, and how I now work for them as their Social Media Specialist. Have no fear, nothing has been changed; these are real names and events. No additional websites have been harmed during the writing process.


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Bogus Mobile-Shortcuts WordPress Plugin Injects SEO Spam

Here at Sucuri we see countless cases of SEO spam where a website is compromised in order to spread pharmaceutical advertisements or backlinks to sites selling luxury goods. Most of the time this involves injecting hundreds of spam links into the site’s database but in this case a deceptive, fake plugin called mobile-shortcuts was able to be a bit more discreet. Below I go over the process by which this SEO spam injection was uncovered and identified.

Site (SEO Spam) Unseen

Recently I came across a website displaying a (BlackHat) SEO spam warning – pretty typical in terms of what we see day to day:

https://team.sucuri.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/seo.png

Malicious Code Warning – via SiteCheck by Sucuri

Our first analysis of the site cleared quite a few backdoors and a few known hack tools but, even so, this SEO spam persisted.


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