Via Muthu. This is mind boggling to me.
Sparasites on the web now somehow find it worth their while to invade ultra-specialized academic conferences. Call them splORGers. (In close analogy to sploggers).
The website focs2008.org appears to be the official home of the 49th Annual IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science. (In fact, it’s the top result for the search “focs 2008” in Bing, Google, and Yahoo!.) Historically a few hundred people attend to hear talks like “A Hypercontractive Inequality for Matrix-Valued Functions with Applications to Quantum Computing and LDCs”.
The website appears fully functional: you can browse the entire website structure including internal links like the list of accepted papers and external links like the online registration form.
But look more closely at the lower left corner of the front page. What do you see? SPAM KEYWORDS!: “Data Recovery Dell Memory HP Memory PC RAM wow accounts WoW gold”.
It turns out that focs2008.org is NOT the official FOCS 2008 conference home page. Rather, it’s http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~FOCS2008/. (Yahoo! ranks this site in second place, Bing and Google in seventh.)
This doesn’t seem like a zero-cost no-brainer automated attack. It involves identifying the appropriate domain name and mirroring another website, not as one-click as it sounds. There’s even a small sign of manual effort: the fox graphic in the upper left links to focs2007.org rather than 2008, as in the original. And of course there’s the cost to register and host the domain.
So why bother? Clearly, the perpetrator is not expecting real people to click on the spam links. At it’s peak, about as many people searched for “focs 2008” as for “pennock” and the offending links are fairly obscure. This is most certainly about siphoning link juice from seemingly legitimate .orgs that search engines trust.
But can that benefit really outweigh the cost? Again and again I simply fail to grok the economics of spam.
SplORGers have also set up camp at focs2007.org and ioi2008.org. Curiously, focs2009.org has a more transparent yet still head-scratching disclaimer.
Today, I stumbled onto a similar spamfiltration on mortgagepoints.com, the first external link on the Wikipedia definition of mortgage points, prompting me to finally write this post. Look what our ultra open web has wrought!