A recent study shows that a single company is responsible for a number of small ISPs making extra money using nefarious search engine hijacks.

The report was a joint effort by Peter Eckersley of the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and Christian Kreibich, Vern Paxson, and Nicholas Weaver of ICSI (International Computer Science Institute) of Berkeley, California.

"Earlier this year, two research papers reported the observation of strange phenomena in the Domain Name System (DNS) at several US ISPs," states the analysis. "On these ISPs' networks, some or all traffic to major search engines, including Bing, Yahoo! and (sometimes) Google, is being directed to mysterious third party proxies."

The researchers found that using around 170 high-profile search terms in the browser search field generated different results compared to entering the terms into the search field of a search engine website. In each case, the ISP intercepts the search function and treats it similarly to an advertising link, routing the traffic it through an affiliate marketing network to generate profits.

Much of the hijacking, if not all of it, seems to be connected to a company called Paxfire, which refers to itself as "the proven industry leader in monetizing Address Bar Search and DNS Error traffic". The latter is the tactic of making money from pages based on common typos entered into search engines -- a legal, if controversial tactic. However, the 'address bar search' approach may, in fact, be patently illegal.

"Reese Richman, a New York law firm that specialises in consumer protection lawsuits, today filed a class action against one of the ISPs and Paxfire, which researchers believe provided the equipment used to hijack and redirect the searches," reports New Scientist. "The suit, filed together with Milberg, another New York firm, alleges that the process violated numerous statutes, including wiretapping laws."

The report named "approximately a dozen US Internet Service Providers (ISPs), including DirecPC, Frontier, Hughes, and Wide Open West," which "deliberately and with no visible indication route thousands of users' entire web search traffic via Paxfire's web proxies...Google has recently put significant pressure (see the answer to the question) on the ISPs to get them to stop redirecting Google searches. As of August 2011, all major ISPs involved have stopped proxying Google, but they still proxy Yahoo and Bing.

 

James Lee Phillips is a Senior Writer & Research Analyst for IBG.com. With offices in Dallas, Las Vegas, and New York, & London, IBG is quickly becoming the leading expert in Internet Marketing, Local Search, SEO, Website Development and Reputation Management. More information can be found at www.ibg.com. East-Side Lenders strives to set the standard for the online pay day loan business. They are dedicated to providing premier alternative financing and helping people receive a quick a pay day loan.