According to McAfee’s first-quarter Threats Report, released on Tuesday, cybercriminals are taking advantage of search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to target victims.

McAfee’s report indicates that cybercriminals take trending topics, such as the recent Toyota recalls or the launch of Apple’s iPad, to trick popular search engines into indexing links that lead to malware-infested websites, relays CNET. While Google and other search engines take measures to remove these websites as soon as possible, it can take days before they are deleted.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is only one technique used by cybercriminals to infect users with malicious software. They also take advantage of the "AutoRun" feature of USB devices, password-stealing Trojans that abuse Facebook security protocols, and fake antivirus programs to proliferate their harmful programs.

At a workshop that took place earlier in May, Google said that malware thrived on the back of its search engine. According to eWeek, Google said that fake antivirus programs accounted for 15 percent of all malware threats that it detects on the web. As of February 2010, it found that more that 11,000 domains were involved in fake antivirus operations.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.