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Sep 29, 2016 08:06 AM EDT

Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon, and 76 Other Websites Hacked by Gambling Sites

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Researchers have recently discovered that the websites of Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon along with 76 other universities have been hacked by a gambling site that wants to propel its Google ranking.

The method was so subtle that it won't be noticed unless a thorough inspection is done. What the site did was insert keywords randomly into unrelated texts and link them back to the gambling website. This was enough to shoot that site to the top of search ranking because Google still base its search ranking on keywords linked from trusted sites.

Nothing is clear yet how the links were inserted in these websites but the most likely explanation is that they have been hacked. The hackers might have used the blogging plugins used by these websites. The said links are embedded throughout the websites in mid-sentence, course descriptions, and press releases.

For example, one was found on Stanford University's page about website resources. The sentence from where the link is anchored said, "You can choose from a huge 'online slot machines for real money' selection of templates and page layouts."

eTraffic, the group who discovered the hacking, did not reveal what site did that but said that it was an affiliate site for an online gambling website.But why would anyone spend a lot of time hacking such sites to plant these links? The answer is pretty simple, there is a lot of money rolling from these online gambling sites. One click can generate as high as $80.

"There is so much money involved in the online gambling industry, people will always take the next step to bypass Google," said Guy Regev, CEO of eTraffic.

The next question is why these hackers target university websites? That's because Google identifies university and government sites as high-trust sources so it overlooks the relevance of the link if it comes from a trusted website. SEO experts recommend that links can have a lot of impact if it is linked from relevant sites with high content.

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