Webjacking is the illegal practice of stealing a legitimate website’s design and confusing potential customers into believing they have stumbled upon the legitimate site. Once at the bogus site, the webjacker may extract confidential information from the visitor, infect the visitor’s computer with a virus and/or redirect the visitor to advertisers (often pornographic websites) which reimburse the webjacker for the redirected traffic.
While the Federal Trade Commission initiated a crack-down on webjackers back in 1999, today’s webjackers often operate outside of the U.S., from countries such as Romania and the former Soviet Republic, making them exceedingly difficult to track down. So what is a company to do when a webjacker strikes?
One thing companies can do is to enlist others to reprint details of the webjacking, mentioning the webjacker in the title of the article, while taking great care not to link to the webjacker or the webjacked website. Such was the case recently in Des Moines. The successful online savings program SmartyPig was recently webjacked by a Romanian concern calling itself TrustyPig. As you can see, in an effort to undermine the webjacking, all links in this post link to the legitimate SmartyPig cite, rather than to the TrustyPig website. Here is the legitimate SmartyPig website courtesy of Troy Rutter’s New Media Original Blog.
And here is the infringing Romanian website:
Did you notice there is no link to the infringing website? A link to the webjacked site would not only generate more publicity for the webjacker, but would move the TrustyPig cite up in the search engine rankings. Conversely, by mentioning the webjacked website, but linking to the legitimate website, the webjacked website not only misses out on the free traffic redirect, but also falls in the search engine rankings. Webjackers are not unwise to these tactics. Webjackers often fight back by linking other webjacked sites to the offending webpage.
While few companies have the resources to fight a webjacker directly, every company has the ability to leverage social media to fight them. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and search engines all all valuable tools small companies can use to thwart a webjacking attempt. The key, however, is to get your company’s social network in place BEFORE an attack occurs. That way your social network can come to your rescue immediately, as was the case with SmartyPig. As an added benifit, a deep social networking presence will increase your company’s online reputation, making it more difficult for webjackers and online detractors to attack.
You can help too. Feel free to copy and redistribute this post as much as possible, taking care, as I have done here, not to link to the webjacked website. For more on what you can do to fight a webjacker, read AndyBrudtkuhl’s article TrustyPig – Social Brand Hijack at www.getanewbrowser.com. Andy is a long-time member of the Des Moines Social networking community and is heading up the campaign to move SmartyPig ahead of TrustyPig on Google. Help Andy and SmartyPig out if you can by linking the term "TrustyPig" to Andy’s article. Be sure to check back often and watch as SmartyPig rises in the TrustyPig search engine rankings.