A recent article here on Bonus Paradise discussed the why gambling forums were an integral part of the future of online gambling. One of the major points made is that they serve as an unbiased and reliable source of information. This has really hit home, as it was recently uncovered that numerous sites across the net have been hacked, for the purpose of quick cash. Bonus Paradise has been spared from it, and the information contained within its pages remains reliable, but many websites that are not forum-based can no longer be trusted for dependable data. The Search If you have a few online casinos that you routinely visit, you may not have seen this disturbing trend. However, if you do a search for almost anything related to them, you’ve probably been hoodwinked. Innumerable websites have been loaded with false information, which takes you directly to a casino directory. For instance, using Google to search for “dance themed online slot,” calls up numerous responses. The Bait and Switch At a glance, these appear to be legitimate listings of games. Not only do the words sound like you’ll land on a casino game page when you click, but they’ve gone the extra mile by making reviews appear. However, if you do click, you’ll be taken to a totally irrelevant page. Instead of helpfulinformation, reviews, or whatever you were searching for, you’ll find a listing of online casinos. The title of the page will change based on multiple factors, including your location. For one person, it may read “Best Online Casinos for USA Players,” but another person might see the title, “A Selection of the Best Online Casinos.” In any case, the appearance of the page will match the one shown here, though the list of casinos and the title will change. What’s Happening We’ve all been taken to a useless website before, where the information on the page doesn’t match what we’re looking for, or it appears to be gibberish when we get there. Most of the time, the website is specially designed to draw you in with a bait and switch. It’s an annoyance, but we can just click away from it and move on to a relevant search result. However, hackers have found a loophole into websites that have nothing to do with online casinos. In fact, the one depicted here is a website that belongs to a Polynesian dance studio. (Yes, the website’s owner was notified so they can take steps to secure it.) Countless unrelated industries have been hit. Schools and government agencies are not even immune. Moreover, the hackers aren’t stopping at adding a single page to websites they don’t own. In some cases, they’re adding hundreds. Why it Appears in Google Search engines, like Google, don’t just read a page the way a person will. They read the codes associated with it, or the backend. It’s actually possible to load the code with words a search engine can read, but a person won’t ever see. This process is called “cloaking” and reputable search engines not only frown upon it, but they will often remove an entire website from their listings if they see it’s happening. So, all those phrases you see on the Google list image, like “no deposit bonus codes” are hidden in the source code of the page. Vulnerabilities It’s very difficult to say at this point exactly how the hackers have gotten into so many websites all at once. Some sources indicate that the hackers are getting in through a vulnerable WordPress plugin called wysija-newsletter. The sad thing is, it appears this same hacker has been at it for at least four years and is still going strong. If you own a website, especially a WordPress one, be sure to check that nobody has gotten in and added pages. It’s also wise to keep all plugins updated, as security patches are routinely added. Who and Why Nobody has been able to track down the party responsible for these hacks yet. However, it appears to be a single individual operating out of Russia. It could also be a sophisticated hacker, who simply understands how to make it appear as if he’s in Russia. Because the responsible party has not spoken up yet, the motives cannot be verified. It appears, though, that he’s only promoting casinos that will provide him a kickback every time someone clicks on a casino link or registers an account with one of the listed casinos. If this is the case, his hacks are purely financially motivated. If you find yourself on one of these hacked pages, do not trust it and do not click on any of the links. Leave the website immediately. It’s quite possible the website owner has no knowledge that their site has been hacked. Unfortunately, this also means that they are likely to face penalties from the search engines if they don’t correct the issue. There is no easy fix for this, other than to avoid the hacked sites once you’ve found one, and for website owners to be vigilant. Again, Bonus Paradise is not affected by this hack and all content on this site is secure as well as reliable, as it has only been added by members and administration.