Old WordPress may be vulnerable to spammers

Ash Nallawalla

6 April 2008

SEO

A friend of mine who runs some quality sites got this email from Google:

Dear site owner or webmaster of example.com,

While we were indexing your webpages, we detected that some of your pages were using techniques that were outside our quality guidelines, which can be found here: http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, we have temporarily removed some webpages from our search results. Currently pages from example.com are scheduled to be removed for at least 30 days. Specifically, we detected the following practices on your webpages: * The following hidden text on example.com: e.g. payday loan (several more spammy links) […]

We would prefer to have your pages in Google’s index. If you wish to be reconsidered, please correct or remove all pages that are outside our quality guidelines. When you are ready, please visit: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/reinclusion?hl=en to learn more and request a reconsideration request.

Sincerely,
Google Search Quality Team

This is enough to send a shiver down the proverbial. My friend suspected WordPress to be the culprit, as it is present on his sites and it is out of date. But he could not find the problem in the templates. I took a quick look.

First I suspected a proxy hijack. I searched for inurl:example.com in Google and among a few results, there was this:

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blah.com/blah/nph-search.pl/010110A/http/www.example.com/blog/

Turns out to be a proxy script with just a form on the home page. It was likely to be another site that contained a link to the above URL. The latter site was probably crawled and therefore the link was indexed.

Then I searched for his domain name with some of the spammy words and found a single article. In a single location in the first paragraph there was a long string of linked URLs whose HTML code looked like this (spaces deliberately inserted below):

<u style="display:none"><a href="http://www.spammysite .com/wp-content/1/ payday-loan-in-georgia.html"><font style="color:black; background-color:99ff99">payday</font> loan in georgia</a> (more than 100 similar links followed)</u>

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My friend has cleaned out this code and upgraded WordPress to the latest version. I am waiting for Fantastico to catch up, as I am only one version behind, and will follow suit. Suggest that you check your version soon.

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Ash Nallawalla

Search strategist experienced in large, complex websites. SEO consultant.

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