What is a fake website accessible through the Google search engine?

Internet is an amalgamation of the truth, mistruth and the false. Given its vastness, search engine is the standard gateway to a rich source of information beyond the familiar websites we go to for our basic diet of news and online transactions. Hence, possibility exists that fake websites with similar names could pass under the radar, with resulting severe consequences ranging from loss of login details, privacy and misrepresentation, and monetary theft.

Figure 1 of fake website blog post.gif
Figure 1: Google search results for “wordpress”, where the advertised website (www.wordpress.com), is the true website, while the alternative (https://wordpress.com) is the false one.

How do we identify false websites from their true versions? Using the Google search engine for the term, “wordpress”, the top listed website which has an advertisement is the correct website (www.wordpress.com). However, there is a similar named website with uniform resource locator (URL) as https://wordpress.com. Though one can login to your WordPress account using either of the websites, you would loss all of your login details to the false website and your contribution may not be published on the real Internet.

Figure 2 of fake website blog post
Figure 2: Google search on the phrase, “Lenovo tab 3 essential”, returns a list of websites comprising the real advertised website (www.lenovo.com), compared to the fake website (www3.lenovo.com)

Doing a further Google search with the search phrase “Lenovo tab 3 essential” highlights the need to visit Google advertised sites (with an “Ad” logo) for correct information on consumer products. The alternative website, www3.lenovo.com, is a false website with suspicious information, and one certainly should not purchase items from it. The latter is even more important, given that online purchases on the website typically require a credit card number.

Overall, how should one reduce the chances of going to a false website in the search for information or for online purchases? One approach would be to visit websites supported by advertisement such as Google advertisement, since for reputable companies, there should only be one advertised website, which is the authentic one. In the area of consumer electronics, one should avoid website without www. as the prefix. Given the requisite nature in which search engines provide access to the Internet and its associated information, the method by which search engine catalogues information on the Internet plays a critical role in safeguarding the authenticity and reliability of its search results. The open and transparent Google search engine that does not do a pre-filter of the collected information prior to displaying it to the end user, runs a real danger of perpetuating the vicious cycle of misinformation that access to the Internet, where one could double check on any suspicious claims, help ameliorates.

Category: information security,
Tags: search engine, catalogue of information,

Acknowledgement: Ng Wenfa thank Seah Kwi Shan for co-authoring this blog post.


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