Google search results listings can be manipulated for propaganda

Google search results listings can be manipulated for propaganda

Manipulated Google search result

Image: ZDNet

A feature of the Google search engine lets threat actors alter search results in a way that could be used to push political propaganda, oppressive views, or promote fake news. The feature is known as the “knowledge panel” and is a box that usually appears at the right side of the search results, usually highlighting the main search result for a very specific query. For example, searching for Barack Obama would bring a box showing information from Barack Obama’s Wikipedia page, along with links to the former president’s social media profiles.

But Wietze Beukema, a member of PwC’s Cyber Threat Detection & Response team, has discovered that you can hijack these knowledge panels and add them to any search query, sometimes in a way that pushes legitimate search results way down the page, highlighting an incorrect result and making it look legitimate. The way this can be done is by first searching for a legitimate item, and pressing the “share” icon that appears inside a knowledge panel.

Image: ZDNet

This would generate a Google URL that when accessed in the browser would look like:

https://www.google.com/search?kgmid=/m/02883b

The “kgmid=/m/02883b” is a parameter that loads the Knowledge Graph entry for that particular knowledge panel –in this case the ZDNet panel.

Beukema discovered that this parameter can then be added to any other search query, like below, and would result in the knowledge panel appearing as a highlighted search result for any query, even incorrect ones.

https://www.google.com/search?q=who+invented+sliced+bread&kgmid=/m/02883b

Adding the “&kponly” at the end of this URL widens the knowledge panel to cover the entire width of the page, pushing the correct search results way down the page, and giving the idea that this panel is the most accurate result of them all.

https://www.google.com/search?q=who+invented+sliced+bread&kgmid=/m/02883b&kponly

While sharing search result page URLs for queries like “Who invented sliced bread” with an incorrect knowledge panel passes as an innocent prank, sharing malformed URLs for search queries like “Who’s responsible for 9/11” and highlighting results like Judaism can have serious consequences in today’s complicated political climate. Just imagine the damage you can do with manipulated Google URLs like these [1, 2, 3].

Link sharing is an important part of today’s web and the way in which Google appears to have structured its URL parameters allows threat actors a way to essentially edit search results, which is a dangerous issue. People trust Google and Facebook way too much these days, and tech companies should make sure this trust isn’t turned against innocent people in a way that may lead to the loss of human life, as it sometimes happened in the past year with Facebook and WhatsApp. “People have effectively been trained to take information from these boxes that appear when googling,” said Beukema. “I have caught myself relying on the information presented by Google rather than studying the search results.”

In a blog post revealing this issue, Beukema said he informed Google of this issue last year, but the company ignored his report, leaving the door open for search result manipulation.

Beukema believes that Google should remove these knowledge panels, or at least remove the “&kponly” parameter that makes the panels cover almost the entire area of the screen.

More tech coverage:

Google Pixel 2 64GB Blue Unlocked - Refurbished / Usedpristine condition, 2nd hand used/refurbised Google Pixel 2 64GB Blue with 12 months warranty. Samsung with free UK delivery and no contract. 5" screen size, 12.2 Megapixel camera, light weight (143 g). Brilliant 5" AMOLED Full HD screen delivers vivid colours Improved 12 megapixel camera with dual-pixel autofocus Google Lens lets you visually search for places & things Interactive characters add some fun to the everyday Squeeze for Google Assistant to get things done Whether it's a YouTube video on the train home, or your collection of photos from your latest trip, it all looks stunning on the Google Pixel 2 with an 5" AMOLED Full HD display. The always-on display means you can see important information at a glance, and will even tell you what song is playing in the background. Delivering impressive images that could be mistaken for DSLR shots, the Pixel 2 has a 12 megapixel rear-facing camera. You'll be able to capture incredible detail in low light with HDR+, smooth 4K Ultra HD video capture with image stabilisation, and stunning portraits with blurred backgrounds. Plus, you can enjoy unlimited storage with Google Photos. Introducing a new way to search, Google Lens lets you learn more about the world around you. Simply use your camera to discover more about landmarks, read a review of a book or film, or find out who painted a piece of art. Augmented reality makes everyday moments more fun by adding interactive characters and playful emojis into live scenes. Choose from a range of fun characters, including those from your favourite shows and movies. Google Assistant is like having your own PA and much more. With a simple squeeze of the phone you can take a selfie, text a friend, turn on Bluetooth, or navigate home - all with your voice. - More Info

Google Pixel 2 64GB Blue UNLOCKED - Refurbished / Usedpristine condition, 2nd hand used/refurbised Google Pixel 2 64GB Blue with 12 months warranty. Samsung with free UK delivery and no contract. 5" screen size, 12.2 Megapixel camera, light weight (143 g). Brilliant 5" AMOLED Full HD screen delivers vivid colours Improved 12 megapixel camera with dual-pixel autofocus Google Lens lets you visually search for places & things Interactive characters add some fun to the everyday Squeeze for Google Assistant to get things done Whether it's a YouTube video on the train home, or your collection of photos from your latest trip, it all looks stunning on the Google Pixel 2 with an 5" AMOLED Full HD display. The always-on display means you can see important information at a glance, and will even tell you what song is playing in the background. Delivering impressive images that could be mistaken for DSLR shots, the Pixel 2 has a 12 megapixel rear-facing camera. You'll be able to capture incredible detail in low light with HDR+, smooth 4K Ultra HD video capture with image stabilisation, and stunning portraits with blurred backgrounds. Plus, you can enjoy unlimited storage with Google Photos. Introducing a new way to search, Google Lens lets you learn more about the world around you. Simply use your camera to discover more about landmarks, read a review of a book or film, or find out who painted a piece of art. Augmented reality makes everyday moments more fun by adding interactive characters and playful emojis into live scenes. Choose from a range of fun characters, including those from your favourite shows and movies. Google Assistant is like having your own PA and much more. With a simple squeeze of the phone you can take a selfie, text a friend, turn on Bluetooth, or navigate home - all with your voice. - More Info

RVFM - Giant Teeth Demonstration Model - 150 x 185 x 140mmGiant-Teeth-Demonstration-Model-RVFM-3083-p-This-model-is-ideal-for-demonstrating-dental-hygiene-and-tooth-care-Can-be-manipulated-manually-in-a-hand-puppet-fashion-p-RVFM-Giant-Teeth-Demonstration-Model-150-x-185-x-140mm - More Info

Kuebler HR 47 AC Operating hours counter HR 47 Assembly dimensions Ø 51 mmCounter that cannot be manipulated for monitoring maintenance intervals. Impact and shock-resistant casing. - More Info - EAN: 4045262247431

Kuebler HR 47 DC Operating hours counter HR 47 Assembly dimensions Ø 51 mmCounter that cannot be manipulated for monitoring maintenance intervals. Impact and shock-resistant casing. - More Info - EAN: 4045262247769

You may also like...

       
Apps & Games Clothing Electronics & Photo Large Appliances
Baby Womens Apparel Garden Lighting
Beauty Mens Apparel Outdoors Luggage
Books Girls Apparel Health & Personal Care Pet Supplies
Car Boys Apparel Home Shoes & Bags
Motorbike Computers & Accessories Kitchen Equipment Sports & Outdoors
Fashion DIY & Tools Jewellery Toys & Games