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Google Rickroll’d the Internet

So Google has time for more than attacking your websites with black and white animals. They recently did a virtual ‘street-view’ tour of a Google data center in Lenoir, North Carolina, and managed to include some ‘easter eggs’ in the process.

Here’s the ‘video tour’ with nice audio explaining the various sections of the Street View tour:

[iframe width="549" height="309" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/avP5d16wEp0?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen][/iframe]

 
Not missing a beat, Google’s G+ account noticed the recursive nature of the servers taking a picture of the servers that would then host the pictures of the servers taking pictures of the servers..

Google+ post from Google about Google Street view inside a Google Data Center that hosts Street View data.

 
Folks with a keen eye will notice some ‘odd’ images in the tour, including the world’s largest ever single Rick Roll attempt:

A Google employee casually shares the same video on two screens. Apparently he's never going to give us up or let us down, never going to run around and desert us..

 
Someone hiding in a costume that looks like an android:

A Google employee dressed as an android inside a Google Data Center.
Love the white boards! All offices need whiteboards!

 
And even an image of their on-site security team:

A Google employee dressed as a stormtrooper and a mini R2 unit stand guard inside a Google Data Center.

 
Some good humor from Google, and a really neat tour of something that is typically a very private operation.

One last ‘observation’, I also like the advice of freshly washed/sliced veggies, like celery/carrots as an item to have beside your keyboard throughout the day. As the sign says, those veggies are a good source of fiber which is really important if you give a .. darn. :)

SEO news blog post by @ 11:39 am on October 18, 2012


 

Executive Order for Cyber Security

The Obama administration has been circulating a draft for an executive order focused on protecting the country from cyber-attacks. Following a proposed cybersecurity bill from Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) that was blocked last month by Senate Republicans, the new draft proposes to codify standards and suggest best practices for critical infrastructure. The draft proposal has been sent out to relevant federal agencies.

obama cyber-security

After the first senate bill died, the White House counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan recommended that an executive order be issued to ensure power, water and transportation networks are secure.

“An executive order is one of a number of measures we’re considering as we look to implement the president’s direction to do absolutely everything we can to better protect our nation against today’s cyber threats,” said White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. “We are not going to comment on ongoing internal deliberations.”

The proposed order would use the following system:

• Would setup an inter-agency council led by the Department of Homeland Defense
• Members would include the DOD, Commerce Department and possible other representatives from the Department of Energy, Treasury Department, the attorney general and the director of national intelligence.
• DHS would manage the program.
• Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would help to craft the framework of the program and work with private sector companies to develop cyber-security best practices and guidelines.
• DHS would receive guidance from NIST and work with ‘sector coordinating councils’ to determine which industry sectors are considered as critical infrastructure as well as determining what standards the industry participants are to follow.
• It would be left up to the companies to decide what actions they would take to meet the standards.

One of the main issues still under discussion involves the kinds of incentives the government will offer critical infrastructure operators to entice them into the program as the executive branch is limited in the types of incentives that it can offer companies, and much of this power resides within Congress.

Some opponents of the proposed order are not in favor of a join program led by the DHS and point to their previous track record in leading national security efforts.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:01 pm on September 10, 2012


 

Fetch as Google Bot Helps Hacked Sites

Anyone who has had their website hacked (and knows about it) understands that pains that are required to clean up your site to remove the infection. Besides "clear-cut, black-hat webspam" the second largest category of spam that Google deals with consistently is that of hacked websites. I wrote a post a while ago detailing what to do if you site has been hacked and steps you can take to clean it up in this post:

Google Bot

http://www.beanstalk-inc.com/blog/2012/06/18/my-site-was-hacked-now-what-do-i-do/

http://www.beanstalk-inc.com/blog/2012/06/20/more-malicious-malware-maladies/

Many times, webmasters will resubmit their site after a malware attack to Google thinking that they have successfully purged the offending code from their site. Often the site is still infected with malware and is subsequently declined for reinclusion by Google.

Hackers will often let you think that you are seeing clean content on your site, but when a search engine, or a visitor from a search engine views the page, they see spammy content. This makes it decidedly more difficult to find and remove the hacked content, so the hacked content stays up on the site longer.

Following the steps outlined in our previous blog posts, will help you to clean up your site and to prepare it for review from Google. After you repair the damage, but before and are ready to resubmit it to Google, you should use the "Fetch as Google" tool.

This will allow you to view your site’s content as Google sees it. This can also be useful for troubleshooting issues that may be impeding your site from ranking. The information returned by the tool includes:

  • http header response (404, 301, 500 etc)
  • The date and time of your crawl request
  • Your page HTML code
  • The first 100kb of visible, index-able textual content

If your site has been hacked, the Fetch as Google tool can help you identify problematic pages. Let’s imagine that Bob, the administrator of www.example.com, is searching for his site in Google. He’s surprised to find that his site is appearing in search results for popular spam terms such as "Viagra", especially when he can see that those terms don’t exist in the source code of his site pages. Fortunately his site is verified in Webmaster Tools, so he uses the Fetch as Google tool to understand exactly what it is that Google is seeing on his site. The tool displays the details and the content of the fetched page, in which he can clearly see the word "Viagra" and other spammy terms.

This can happen when a malicious hacker penetrates the security of a site and inserts undesirable content, disguising it so that it doesn’t appear to normal users, but only to Googlebot. Because the source code of the site appears normal to everybody except Googlebot, the problem is difficult to diagnose without the Fetch as Google tool.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:39 am on August 29, 2012

Categories:Cyber-Security

 

Litigation vs. Innovation – The Apple Way

I’m really ashamed of my days of being an Apple loyalist, encouraging people to consider Apple solutions, and fighting for the ‘little guy’ computer company.

That ‘little guy‘ I once championed, has since grown up to be a thug making immoral decisions that I no longer agree with.

Apple is causing me deep personal embarrassment as they strut about the digital playground smashing things that compete with their creations.

A scene from the movie The Dictator where he wins by shooting his competition

You know something’s wrong with a company’s decisions when you’re watching a Sacha Baron Cohen movie (The Dictator) and the opening scenes of winning a race by shooting the competition reminds you of Apple’s choices to force litigation/product bans vs. accepting a financial settlement with Samsung.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcu5sYxcEuo

Samsung will fight the decision and have already announced that they will counter-sue Apple.

Since Samsung successfully defended themselves in many countries (Germany, Korea, Netherlands, and United Kingdom), winning court battles which ruled that they did not copy Apple’s designs, a counter suit and appeal are likely to change the situation drastically.

On top of everything else, jurors in this recent court case are already making headlines stating that they were unable to properly review all the evidence, and ignored the prior art evidence that proved Apple clearly copied others in it’s iPhone design.

The jury actually took a defensive role, putting themselves in the mindset of innovators defending their patents. Velvin Hogan, the 67 year old jury foreman, stated that the jury :

“wanted to send a message to the industry at large that patent infringing is not the right thing to do, not just Samsung.”

With any luck, the same feelings will hold true as Motorola (Google-rola?) continues it’s legal action against Apple’s unpaid patent uses.

Since the patents in the current lawsuit are non-essential, one would assume that Google-rola has the opportunity to give Apple a taste of how it feels to block a company’s products via legal nonsense.

However, the likely result will be that even after (2?) years of trying to get Apple to pay the licensing fees, Google-rola won’t turn-down an offer of fair payment, just to block all product sales, unlike Apple.

Speaking of a ban on products, Samsung is already talking about releasing updated products that are completely free of Apple’s patent bans.

Zero Day Java Vulnerability

According to a few reputable sources online, there’s a new browser-based exploit for Java that is ‘in the wild’ and a patch won’t be coming very soon.

When someone says ‘in the wild’ it means that there’s reports of the exploit being used publicly, which means that there’s a high risk of contact.

In this case the exploit has been used to remote-control Windows based PCs that visit websites with hidden code on certain pages. The hacker in this case picked a Chinese proxy/IP and the ‘control network’ is also believed to be located in Singapore.

Since ‘wise’ hackers usually pick a point of origin outside their own country, this info actually points to someone non-Chinese as the source of the hack.

While that exploit only works on Windows computers, the payload is totally independent of the hack, so the same strategy will work on any computer and any browser.

To avoid getting hit, you may want to disable JavaScript:

In Chrome:
- type “chrome://plugins/” into your address bar
- on the plugins page, scroll down to Javascript and disable it.

In Opera:
- go to “opera:plugins”
- on the plugins page, scroll down to Java(TM) Platform
- click on Disable
- also scroll down to Java Deployment Toolkit
- click on Disable

In Firefox:
- press the Firefox button
- go to Add-ons
- go to Plugins
- click the “Disable” button next to anything named “Java”

Finally if you are using Internet Explorer, you probably don’t care, but here’s some recent instructions stolen from the help desk over at Indiana University:

To enable or disable Java in Internet Explorer:

From the Tools menu (or the Tools drop-down), select Internet options.

  • Click the Programs tab, and then click Manage Add-ons.
  • Highlight Java Plug-in.
  • Click Disable or Enable (located under “Settings” in version 7), as applicable.
  • Click OK twice.

To enable or disable JavaScript:

From the Tools menu (or the Tools drop-down), choose Internet options.

  • Click the Security tab.
  • Click Custom Level…
  • Scroll to the “Scripting” section of the list.
  • For “Active Scripting”, click Disable or Enable.
  • Click OK, and confirm if prompted.
  • Close and restart your browser.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:57 am on August 28, 2012


 

Hollywood & ISP Spies Are Watching YOU!

A partnership between the RIAA, MPAA and major ISPs such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast and Hollywood and Big Music, could allow your ISP to police your internet usage once a final agreement is reached. The partnership would see these ISPs spying on your activity to monitor for sharing copyrighted movies or music files from your computer.

Traditionally, your ISP attempts to protect you and your data by utilizing software and hardware to keep the connections between your computer and their servers secured. The irony of course is that with the new graduated response plan dubbed the “Center for Copyright Information” (http://copyrightinformation.org/) would make the ISPs involved responsible for policing and enforcing the violations and would see offending users warned, restricted and eventually cut off from the Internet for successive infringements.

Until now, media companies have had to try and scour the internet in an attempt to find and locate violators, but if the agreement goes through, the studios will have associated ISPs sniff packets of incoming data to and from their customers computers. The process of the escalation of infringements is structured as follows:

  • Rights holders track infringing Internet users and send notices to ISPs.
  • ISPs used this data to send warnings, called “Copyright Alerts”, to subscribers.
  • If subscribers fail to improve their behavior, further warnings will be issued.

ISPs will be given some discretion as to the variety of sanctions, but would range from throttling back connection speeds to limited browsing or termination of the account.
The agreements between the MPAA, RIAA and ISPs in the United States will be completely voluntary. The ISPs will insist that they are completely within their rights to amend their Terms of Service to accommodate such an agreement and will almost certainly do so quickly.

&Voluntary cooperative solutions are a priority focus and we believe that, in combination with law enforcement action, voluntary actions by the private sector have the potential to dramatically reduce online infringement and change the enforcement paradigm,& said U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel.

“We will continue to push forward to encourage voluntary cooperative actions on multiple fronts. Our ultimate goal is to reduce infringement online so we will continue to assess our approach to ensure that it is as effective as possible.&

Not only does this new agreement rekindle the online privacy and piracy debates, but it also raises some equally disturbing problems:

  • Sharing an internet connection (be it private, business, or public) becomes a liability to the owner, who becomes responsible for an individual’s activities on a network or shared connection.
  • Expectations of privacy are lost. Companies that deal in vitally sensitive information are not only at risk of someone seeing sensitive information but are now become a liability if the information goes public.
  • And the most obvious Big Brother paradigm: If ISPs are required to police you; who will police them?

In the light of such measures being introduced and other perceived infringements on Internet freedoms, a campaign to establish a Digital Bill of Rights & Freedoms from Active Politic.com has been gaining momentum. It hopes to establish an Internet consisting of:

  • The right to a free and uncensored Internet.
  • The right to an open, unobstructed Internet.
  • The right to equality on the Internet.
  • The right to gather and participate in online activities.
  • The right to create and collaborate on the Internet.
  • The right to freely share their ideas.
  • The right to access the Internet equally, regardless of who they are or where they are.
  • The right to freely associate on the Internet.
  • The right to privacy on the Internet.
  • The right to benefit from what they create.

The Internet and the sharing of information (public or private) is still in its adolescence and will require much more deliberation and ratification of laws before we witness an Internet where media companies feel protected from piracy and users are guaranteed to have the freedom to share information without the fear of reprisal.

SEO news blog post by @ 1:01 pm on July 9, 2012


 

Attack of the Flame Computer Virus

Discovered earlier this week, the newly discovered Flame malware virus was dubbed to be the most lethal cyberweapon to date and may have been running unnoticed for over 5 years.

flame virus

The Flame virus (alternatively known as Flamer or sKyWIper) was found to have infected well over 5000 computer across seven Middle Eastern countries. It appears that the virus was specifically targeted and compromised computers in Iran, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This newly found virus is estimated to be at least 20 times more powerful than the Stuxnet worm that was responsible for disabling Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010.

The virus was discovered by the Moscow based anti-virus company, Kaspersky Lab. Kaspersky states that the Flame virus has the ability to collect private data, take screen shots, copy instant messaging conversations, initiate Bluetooth connections, activate computer microphones for the purposes of recording conversations.

Experts state that the Flame went undetected for so long as it only infected a limited number of computers over a long period of time; which is indicative of a long-term surveillance scheme.

Popular anti-virus programs were unable to detect the virus as they rely on existing instances of a known virus in order to create a detection program that is based upon signatures developed by analyzing the behavioral patterns of the existing bad code.

The fact that the threat went for so long undetected, speaks of the existing state of virus detection and of the inherent flaws in cyber security and anti-virus software.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:40 am on June 6, 2012


 

Protecting Corporate Identity On The Search Engines
By Dave Davies, Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization

Companies go to great lengths to establish their corporate identity through marketing, advertisements, promotions, search engine positioning, and other means. As with any success, it may well happen that criticism follows. Any company is likely to do something that someone, somewhere won’t like.

As we all witnessed with the “miserable failure” rankings on Google, if you are successful others will attempt to discredit you. In the past these attacks have been restricted to traditional media formats with a limited audience. Now however with some technical know-how and a computer your company or corporate identity can be attacked from anyone for the whole world to see.

While a wide spread attack such as the “miserable failure” incident is very rare, it is not uncommon for unsatisfied clients to post negative feedback on you in forums or on their websites and these posts may appear in the top search engine rankings for your company name. So what can you do about it?

The Goal

The goal is to monopolize the top ten or preferably twenty rankings with information that you desire to have potential clients, reviewers and/or the general public read. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. If your company has unsatisfied past clients, employees or others posting negative information that shows up in the top results when searchers look up your company name, this is bound to have a negative impact on your ability to convert these searchers into clients.
  2. Even without negative information out there it is in your best interest to insure that good information comes up when people search your company name.

It is possible to secure top positioning for your company name without spamming the search engines. Doing so requires a significant investment of time, however the payoff can be dramatic. So where do you start?

Articles

Arguably, one of the single most effective means of accomplishing this task it to write good articles about your industry and publish them online to various authority sites. Articles written by your company are excellent advertisements and prove that you know what you’re talking about. If a potential client is doing their research into you and finds an article written by your staff on a credible authority website you will have won extra points.

For example, an article on search engine positioning written by Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization and published on a Webmaster authority site such as SitePoint stands a very good chance of ranking highly for our company name. To further the chances it is good to, if possible, slip your company name into the article a few times. Beware however, if you make you’re article a blatant advertisement many sites will simply refuse to publish it.

Finding a list of authority sites in your field can be a daunting task unto itself. I would recommend looking at what your main target audience is and what your primary keywords are and start there.

For example, when looking into places to submit articles for Beanstalk I would search for the following phrases (and a bunch more as well):

  • seo articles submit
  • search engine positioning articles submit
  • search engine optimization articles submit
  • business articles submit
  • internet marketing articles submit
  • and a number of others.

You’ll notice that not all of them are directly SEO related. Since you’re investing the time to publish articles it’s a good idea to get them as widely distributed as possible. The more work you put in now the better your efforts will show results. The majority of the time spent writing articles will be spent in the actual writing process. Once you have your list of places to submit your articles to it becomes much easier down the road.

The Next Step:

Immediately after writing your articles I recommend setting up a Google WebAlert. You might as well sign up for an account that you can manage as you have a few of them to sign up for now and many more to come.

Create a WebAlert for your article title in quotes (i.e. “my article title”) and also for an 8 or 9 word phrase taken from the middle of your content (again in quotes). This serves two purposes. First, you will be made aware of where your articles have been picked up and actually published (submitting them does not guarantee publication) and secondly, this practice will also protect you from copyright infringements. If someone, somewhere steals your article you will receive an alert. I recommend checking every alert you get (which can be quite a few if you’ve done a good job finding places to publish your articles). Make sure that your company is credited, that a link to your site is present, and make sure it’s not being taken by someone else and credited to them. You would be surprised how often I’ve found this to occur.

These alerts will also let you know when Google has found your article so you’ll know when you can expect to see it showing up in the results and also when your site can begin seeing traffic and backlink credit for it.

Advertisements

Purchasing advertising on authority sites can also be an effective way to attain an additional ranking for your company name. Some sites will actually place a page on their website about your company for a monthly fee (it may not even be advertised but if you ask most companies are happy to accept your money). If you can get this page linked to from the homepage and write a full page about your company, complete with links to your website, you will get the benefit of the links, the benefit of the traffic directly from that site, and also stand a very good chance of finding that page showing up in the top rankings for your company name.

Smaller ads can be effective if done right. If you purchase a small text add that has your company name in it a few times and is high up on the page you may rank well for your company name though it is difficult due to the limited number of words available for you to play with.

Press Releases

Does your company have something great coming up? Has someone there won an industry award or have you just completed a major project? Then send out a press release.

A company we’ve been working with for a couple years has done just that (for other PR reasons) but has discovered that their releases have plugged up much of the top ten for their product (not company) name. A very effective tactic from an ROI perspective.

There are many resources for publishing press releases including doing it yourself. One resource I’ve found to be useful is PRWeb if you decide to go this route. The cost is relatively low and they can distribute to over 100,000 contacts.

Additional Considerations

Georgia, an editor for SitePoint, brought up some excellent points in regards to this article inspiring this “Additional Considerations” section. In an email she asked the following:

  1. It is really that easy? It sounds like all the reader has to do is write articles and have them published on industry (i.e. related) sites, place a few ads and send out a few press releases. It might be an idea to “qualify” this approach by stating exactly how many article publications you’re talking about, and/or how to choose a the sites on which you’d publish these and/or buy advertising from. I presume that, for this technique to work, the sites from which you published links (of any kind – ad or article) to your site would need to have a reasonably high search ranking themselves – is that right? Is there a numerical indicator (e.g. target only sites with a PR of X or who appear on the first X page/s of rankings, etc.) that readers can use as a rule of thumb? I assume also that the links themselves would need to be keyword-rich..?
  2. I’d also expect that the technique only really works if your site was already in the top spot for (a) given search term/s. If your site appears on page 3 of the search rankings, and an ex-employee publishes something that appears at number 1 for that search term, will the technique still work? Or will it only bump you up relatively in the search rankings (I would not expect it would necessarily put you at the top result). I guess what I’m really asking here is: does all your other SEO have to be perfect (and working) before this technique will have the desired effect?

These are examples of a point noted above that articles should be proof read, in this case not just for grammar and spelling but also for content and to predict additional questions your readers might have. Don’t count on always getting an editor as thorough as Georgia however. Generally speaking you’re going to have to rely on yourself and those around you.

Now, to address these points:

  1. Is it really that easy? Sort of. While following the steps outlined above will accomplish the desired results it is not “easy”. Simply finding lists of quality resources that will post your articles can be quite a significant task indeed. Plan on taking hours on this step alone. Then there’s the writing and publishing and the waiting for the search engines to pick it up, the monitoring of the results on the search engines, and then back to step one again with your next publication.

    For this technique to be most effective the sites will have to be well regarded (though not necessarily well ranked) on the search engines. A business site posting articles on SEO may very well rank in the top 10 for the company name of one of it’s authors despite the fact that the site itself does not rank for anything related to the author’s industry terms. Provided that the site is well regarded by the search engines it’s a great place to submit.

    On Google, PageRank can be used as a decent indicator of being highly regarded, however when you’re targeting the “Big Three” (Google, Yahoo! & MSN) PageRank should not be the only consideration. Make sure that when you’re looking for sites to submit to that you search on all the top engines to insure you’re finding sites that are liked by all the engines you want to rank on. This same rule applies when looking for advertising positions.

    How many articles? Unfortunately there is no solid answer here. This will depend on the quality of sites you’re submitting to, how many sites you’re submitting to, and how well worded your articles are. You will simply have to monitor the rankings on a weekly basis (at minimum) and, if possible, publish an article at least once a week until the goal is attained.

  2. Only if you hold a top position? No. What we’re considering here is ranking for your company name, not some generic and thus more highly competitive phrase. Chances are you’re site is already ranking well for your company name. At least 90% of all the pre-developed sites I’ve worked on have this attained without any solid SEO in place. For the other 10%, the inbound links from these article, press releases, and ads should certainly put you over-the-top for at least this phrase. The true benefit here is in the quality of the sites that are now including your company name (hopefully at least a few times) on their page. These are highly regarded sites and thus are spidered often and given extra weight due to their established positions as resources and/or authorities.

    What we have to consider is the weight on the incoming links (high), the weight of the pages that now contain your company name (high), and compare that with the weight of the site we are trying to push out of the top positions. If this truly is simply a disgruntled employee, client, or some other such source, then chances are they are not putting in the amount of effort that you are willing to in securing your name, nor do they have the resources available.

Does all your existing optimization have to be perfect for this to work? No. In fact, for those starting a company with a new website this is a great tactic for insuring that people searching for your company name encounter information that you’ve created. You’re site may not rank #1 while it’s still at PageRank 0 with no backlinks recorded but a well-worded article on a PageRank 7 website stands a very good chance.

Final Notes

If protecting your corporate identity is important to you or even if you just want to make sure that people searching for your company online find your own website and also find the information you want them to find then these steps will help get you there. It’ll take time and effort but the rewards will pay off and, as an added bonus, all these links to your own site from the articles, press releases, and ads will certainly help your rankings for other phrases as well.

I mentioned WebAlerts above. An additional good practice is to create an alert for your company name (again, in quotes). This way you’ll receive notification when anything about your company gets published on the net. Information is power and in this case it’s the power to influence what others see and learn about your company.

And in some cases, that can be the power to win or lose your biggest client.

If you have any questions about keyword selection or your website in general please feel free to contact us for additional information or sign up for our free search engine positioning review.

Important Note: While the vast majority of our articles are open for publication on other websites this article has been written exclusively for SitePoint. Any duplication in whole or in part of this article without prior written consent is strictly prohibited.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:54 am on February 27, 2007

Categories:Cyber-Security

 

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