Black Hats Paying College Kids for Links?

http://shavingoccam.com/2007/02/02/black-hats-paying-college-kids-for-links/

When I was in college, if you wanted extra money you went and donated bone marrow. It seems the kids today have found a better – albeit  not as altruistic and bordering on illegal – way of getting money for their latest kegger.

Ok, do a search on Google for the term [how to get a cash advance].Check the results

As you can see, results 5,6 and 8 are all University Websites. On closer examination, results five and six appear legitimate. The school’s friendly financial aid office is providing information on how to get a cash advance on your student loans (oh, they are so lovely ten years later).

But look at result #8. It looks like a sub-domain of Purdue University. Something called epics.ecn.purdue.edu. When I click on this link, I am taken to http://made.up.url, obviously not a real site. But then if I look at the cached version of the page, I see a different story. A page full of links to payday loan websites. Affiliate links. Even some Porn links. I very much doubt this page is sanctioned by the fine institution of Purdue University.

But Purdue isn’t the only University affected. Check this one out. In the same query as above and head to the third page of results. Look the link for  http://ccag.tamu.edu/web/?Cash-advance-payday-loan-no-fax/. Yes, these guys are Aggies, even though they are from Corpus Christi. But I doubt even Aggies would support this kind of page on their site. Heck, they don’t even let you walk on the grass at their campus.

So how do these links get there? Well, let’s say you are a poor college student who has a job to run a Website for the University. Somebody offers you a couple of hundred bucks to backdoor a couple of pages of links on your site. These links are valuable because they come from a .edu site. No one on your staff will ever find them, most likely. And even if they are found, there’s probably ten people who could have put them up.

The other option is this same student is running affiliate programs for beer money on the side.

Either way, I doubt that the adminstration of Purdue or Texas ATM realize they are promoting payday loan services. But if they do, then perhaps they could offer me a discount on my student loans?

UPDATE: It appears that these .edu sites were hacked and anyone using awstats is vulnerable. Interesting stuff.

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