Many website owners have contacted us worried about Japanese SEO Spam in Google search results for their websites. This happens when different web pages are shown to search engines and normal visitors. This particular Blackhat SEO technique hijacks Google search results by displaying Japanese words in the title and description of the infected pages.

This attack is also known as the “Japanese Keyword Hack”, “Japanese Search Spam” or the “Japanese Symbol Spam”.

Hacked Website Owners on Forums

When using a Content Management System (CMS) like OpenCart, Magento, Drupal or WordPress you’ll find auto generated Japanese SEO Spam pages. These pages contain affiliate links to stores selling fake brand merchandise. These Japanese products are ‘Spamvetised’ to increase revenue and benefit from the outbound links from your store.

Discovering the Hack

1. Identify infected pages using Google Search

You can uncover such pages by opening Google Search and searching for:

site:[your site root URL] japan

Navigate through some pages of the search results to see if you discover any suspicious looking URLs. These are the pages indexed by Google containing the word ‘japan’. If you notice pages with the Japanese characters in the title or description, it is likely that your website is infected.

Japanese SEO Spam in Google Search Results


2. Verify with Security Issues Tool in Google Search Console

In your Google Search Console (earlier called Google Webmaster Tools), navigate to the Security Issues Tool in the left sidebar.

Google Search Console Security Issues Tool

3. Fetch as Google to check for ‘Cloaking’

When you visit any of these hacked pages, you might see a 404 not found page suggesting that the web page doesn’t exist. Be careful, the hacker may be using a technique called cloaking. Check for clocking by using the “Fetch as Google” tool in your Google Search Console.

Fixing the Japanese SEO Spam Hack

1. Remove any newly created user accounts in the Search Console

If you don’t recognize any users in the “Users and Property Owners” tab, immediately their revoke access. Websites hacked with the Japanese SEO Spam add spammy Gmail accounts as admins so that they can change your site’s settings like sitemaps and geotargeting.

2. Run a Malware Scan

Scan your web server for malware and malicious files using the ‘Virus Scanner’ tool in the cPanel provided by your web host. You can also get expert malware cleanup with the Astra Pro Plan.

3. Check your .htaccess file

Hackers often use the .htaccess file to redirect users and search engines to different malicious pages. Verify the contents of the .htaccess file from a last known clean version of the file from your backups. If you find any suspicious code, comment it out by putting the ‘#’ character in front of the rule.

4. Check Recently Modified Files

Login to your web server via SSH and execute the following command to find the most recently modified files:

find /path-of-www -type f -printf '%TY-%Tm-%Td %TT %p\n' | sort -r

If you are an Astra customer, you would have received an email telling you about malicious file changes.

5. Check your Sitemap

A hacker may modified, or added a new sitemap to get the Japanese SEO Spam pages indexed quickly. If you notice any suspicious links in the sitemap, ensure that you quickly update your CMS core files from a last known clean backup.

 6. Prevent future attacks with a Website Firewall

Another option to prevent the Japanese SEO Spam infections is to use a Website Firwall, like Astra. Our Security Suite helps to automatically secure your site and virtually patch software by preventing malicious requests from ever reaching your website.

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About The Author

Ananda Krishna

Ananda is a security researcher at Astra.


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