Category Archives: Hacks

Microsoft targets Fancy Bear’s domains in trademark lawsuit

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Enlarge (credit: Harald Deischinger)

On Friday, representatives of the notorious hacking entity known as Fancy Bear failed to appear in a federal court in Virginia to defend themselves against a civil lawsuit brought by Microsoft.

As the Daily Beast first reported on Friday, Microsoft has been waging a quiet battle in court against the threat group, believed to be affiliated with the GRU, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency. For now, the company has managed to seize control of 70 domain names, but it’s going after many more.

The idea of the lawsuit, which was filed in August 2016, is to use various federal laws including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and American trademark law as a way to seize command-and-control domain names used by the group, which goes by various monikers including APT28 and Strontium. Many of the domain names used by Fancy Bear contain Microsoft trademarks, like among hundreds of others.

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Life without Google, News App Gets AI in Feed, Long-Term Impact of Link Buys: Weekly Forum Update

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This week Webmaster World challenges marketers to think about how they would generate traffic without Google as a thought experiment. Cre8asiteforums members discuss if link buys in the past paid off long term.

SEOChat members discuss ways to get new SEO clients, if you’re just starting your SEO consulting practice.

Over on Threadwatch, a question is posed on decentralized search engines and if they can really disrupt the search market.

What would you do if Google SERPs just disappeared?

Goodroi challenges members to think about how their business would respond if Google SERPs just disappeared, as a thought experiment to uncover potentially profitable traffic sources that ma be over looked. Members respond with a variety of perspectives

Lucy24 started with,

“Guest posts or articles on other people’s sites, with a link to mine. One-on-one link exchanges with sites that have overlapping target audience. If a forum or discussion thread includes an option for linking to a webpage (most do), use it. In each case, the motive is not to game the search engine by making it look as if lots of people link to me–but to make myself visible to more humans.”

keyplyer discusses the importance of building referral sources,

“Approx 45% [of my traffic] come[s] from backlinks, schools and research (albeit some of those do use SEs.)

Considering so many other sites rely so strongly on SE traffic, they would suffer much more than my sites -so- comparatively, I would benefit.”

Shepherd adds to Lucy24s comment to go back to advertising.

glitterball added,

“Directories have been collateral damage in Google’s war on web spam. Their demise is a great shame and one that has not garnered enough attention.

It is also my belief that the demise of human-classified directories has had an extremely negative effect on Google’s search results, which now rely on returning huge mega-authority sites in the results rather than specialized websites, that were previously endorsed by DMOZ, Yahoo Directory and others.”

iamlost spoke to the power of referrals,

“So many seem to think of back links only as Google ‘juice’ that the idea of them as traffic referrers seems to have all but vanished. Strange as the right back links convert at multiples of what SE traffic does. G has truly warped the natural web especially in the mindset of many webdevs.”

Google Search Apps to Get AI for News Feed

Google is releasing updates to its apps on iOS and Android. The objective is to learn about you interests and provide even more relevant news results for users.

Can decentralized search engines disrupt search?

Surfaced on threadwatch is discussion on decentralized search engines. Decentralized search engines use a decentralized architecture to provide results for users. Also, unlike traditional search engines, ad serving is also decentralized, so companies pay users directly to check out their products.

Did Buying Links Work For Webmasters That Bought Them In The Long Term

Over on cre8asiteforums, members discuss the huge cost of paid links in the past, often at the expense of content creation and UX related website improvements. Some members did not do paid linking at all, citing the potential risk exposure at the time, while other conceded that having good links at the outset was helpful.

What is your favorite way of getting clients?

Members discuss best methods to get new SEO clients, if you’re just starting your practice out. The most popular methods among members are participating in forums and writing high quality in-depth articles. It was also recommended to specialized in a specific industry or in a specific area of SEO.

Google pays professors as part of an academic influence campaign

The Wall Street Journal reported that Google has conducted an academic influence campaign as part of broader efforts to influence public policy and that they have a wish list of topics complete with working titles and abstracts for which they seek willing researchers.

The post Life without Google, News App Gets AI in Feed, Long-Term Impact of Link Buys: Weekly Forum Update appeared first on Internet Marketing Ninjas Blog.


Here’s How to Perfectly Optimize Your Infographic for SEO

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Infographics are amazing!

Besides being one of the best ways to explain a complicated topic with ease, they make information come alive.

Research found,

people following directions with text and illustrations do 323 percent better than people following directions without illustrations.

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Maybe that’s why “infographics are ‘liked’ and shared on social media 3x more than any other type of content.”

And the concept of relaying information through visuals is nothing new.

If you think about it, cave paintings and hieroglyphics dating back to 30,000 BC accomplished the same thing.

They were far less sophisticated but demonstrate just how hard-wired we are when it comes to visual information.

So it’s easy to see why infographics have become so ingrained in content marketing.

They get results!

Unbounce even went so far as to say “infographics are the most powerful tool in your content marketing arsenal.”

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And like with any piece of content you create, you’ll want it to be SEO friendly.

But here’s the thing.

Doing SEO for an infographic demands a slightly different approach than the one you would use for a conventional blog post.

In this post, I explain the most vital components of infographic SEO to ensure yours gets proper visibility in the SERPs.

The biggest hurdle

Let me start by saying infographics are technically just images.

They are typically saved in image formats such as JPEG, PNG, GIF, etc.

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Of course, they’re much more robust and contain far more information than a regular image, but that’s how Google views them.

This is important to know because Google can’t “read” images like it can text-based content such as a blog post.

Fortunately, there are several other elements that you can optimize.

Start with keyword research

You won’t be able to take advantage of keywords in the actual body of an infographic, but there are a few areas where you can insert keywords.

That’s why you’ll still want to do some keyword research to identify a primary keyword phrase as well as a couple of secondary phrases to target.

Let’s say I was planning on creating an infographic about productivity hacks.

A quick search on the Google Keyword Planner shows me that “productivity hacks” is low competition, which is good.


The only issue is that it’s a short-tail keyword with only two words.

But I could still probably make it work, especially if I added “infographic” to the end of “productivity hacks.”

In terms of secondary keywords, there are a few possibilities.

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The bottom line here is to perform keyword research like you would for any other type of content.

The only difference is how you go about inserting those keywords.

File name

Selecting the right file name is vital.

This is one of the main factors that Google will analyze to determine what your infographic content is about.

You need to get it right.

I shouldn’t even have to say this, but you’ll obviously want to stay away from anything generic like Image001.png.

This tells Google absolutely nothing and is going to be a strike against your infographic SEO.

A better choice would be something like productivity-hacks-infographic.png.

It’s short and sweet and lets Google know exactly what your content is about.

Just make sure you’re not doing any keyword stuffing, using the same phrase multiple times or anything else that’s spammy.

But you already know that.

Alt text

Equally important is your alt text.

This is the text alternative of an image that lets someone know what an image contains in the event that it doesn’t load properly.

Screen readers for the blind and visually impaired will read out this text and thus make your image accessible.

More importantly, this gives you another opportunity to explain to Google what’s in your infographic.

Just follow best practices for your alt text and describe as succinctly as possible what your infographic is about.

In this case, I might want to use “Infographic explaining 15 productivity hacks.”


Your URL is important for obvious reasons.

As I mentioned in a post from that referenced Google’s top 200 ranking factors from Backlinko, when it comes to the significance of URLs, here is what we know:

  • URL length is listed as #46
  • URL path is listed as #47
  • Keyword in the URL is #51
  • URL string is #52

I’m not going to cover the nuts and bolts of URL optimization here.

You can find that in the post I just mentioned.

But I will tell you that you want to aim for a short URL that contains three to five words and a max of 60 characters.

This advice comes directly from an interview with Matt Cutts, so you know it’s gold.

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When it comes to keywords, be sure to include one or two of them in your URL.

Research from John Lincoln and Brian Dean found that this is the sweet spot and considered as part of URL keyword best practices (at least for the time being).

H1 tag

Although you can’t capitalize on the H1 tags (or H2s, H3s, etc.) in the body of your infographic, you can still place one above your infographic so Google can “read” it.

Here’s an example:

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See how the same keyword phrase that’s in the actual infographic is used as an H1 tag at the top?

This is a simple yet effective way to give your infographic a bit more SEO juice.

While H1s may not be as big of a ranking factor today as they were a few years ago, they certainly don’t hurt.

And they can be especially helpful for infographics where you have a limited amount of text to work with.

Meta description

Ah, the good ol’ meta description.

Here are a few best practices to adhere to when creating one for your infographic.

  • It should be between 135 and 160 characters in length.
  • It should include your keyword phrase (once).
  • It should accurately describe the content within your infographic.
  • It should have a CTA at the end to encourage search engine users to click on your content.

Getting it just right should make your infographic go further with Google and help you rake in more organic traffic.

For more on creating a killer meta description, I recommend reading this post from Yoast.

Supporting text

I really like hacks, shortcuts, loopholes, etc.

Call them what you will, little tricks like these are what help you gain the edge on the competition.

And there’s one specific hack I would like to point out in regards to infographic SEO.

It’s simple. Add some supporting text at the beginning.

Here’s a great example of what I’m talking about:


Notice that it’s nothing fancy.

It’s just a few paragraphs that expound upon the infographic and offer a quick preview of what it’s about.

This is helpful for two reasons.

First, it provides a brief description for human visitors, which should hopefully pique their interest and make them want to check out the infographic.

Second (and more importantly), it supplies Google with additional text to crawl and decipher meaning from.

This helps your infographic get found and increases the likelihood that it’s indexed under the right keywords.

So it’s a win-win situation.

There’s no reason to go overboard and write 1,000 words of supporting text, but 100 words or so can be a great help.

An added plus is that you can throw in a couple of internal links to relevant pages on your website.

Don’t force it, but try to work in some internal links as well.

Load time

Back in 2010, Google announced that page speed was a ranking factor.

Content that loads quickly will get preference.

Not only that, a faster load time tends to translate into a lower bounce rate, more time spent on your site and so on.

The point I’m trying to make here is that you should be conscious of how long it takes your infographic to load.

Keep in mind that infographics are fairly bulky images, so this can definitely be a concern.

Generally speaking, PNGs, GIFs, JPEGs, BMPs and TIFFs load the fastest, so keep this in mind when choosing a file format.

You can also test the loading speed of your infographic with this free tool.

Just type in the URL.


Then click “Analyze.”


Google will analyze it and grade it.

If there are any issues, Google will provide you with specific advice for speeding it up.


Doing SEO for an infographic isn’t dramatically different from doing SEO for any other type of content.

It incorporates many of the same techniques and strategies.

The main thing you have to work around is the fact that an infographic is an image and therefore Google can’t “read” it like it can regular text-based content.

Fortunately, there are several ways to get around this and ensure your infographic is perfectly optimized for search engines as well as humans.

By covering all the bases, you’ll position it to climb the rankings and achieve maximum visibility in the SERPs.

Do you have any other recommendations for doing SEO for an infographic?


What do we know so far about Google’s new homepage?

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Google has released a new, feed-based mobile homepage in the US, with an international launch due in the next two weeks.

This is perhaps the most drastic and significant update of the homepage (the most visited URL globally) since Google’s launch in 1996.

The upgraded, dynamic entry point to the world’s biggest search engine will be available initially on mobile devices via both the Google website and its mobile apps, but will also be rolled out to desktop.

Let’s take a look at what’s changing and how, as well as what it might mean for marketers.

What’s different about the new homepage?

Google’s new homepage allows users to customize a news feed that updates based on their interests, location, and past search behaviors.

On the website (via a mobile device), there are now four icon-based options: Weather, Sports, Entertainment, and Food & Drink.

The ‘Weather’ and ‘Food & Drink’ options can be used straight away, as they take the user’s location data to provide targeted results. The ‘Sports’ and ‘Entertainment’ options require a little more customization before users can benefit from them fully. Without this, Google will just serve up popular and trending stories within each category.

In the example below, I tapped on the ‘Sports’ icon, then selected to follow a baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. Based on this preference, Google then knows to show me updates on this team on my homepage. The results varied in their media format, with everything from Tweets to GIFs and videos shown in my feed.

This means that rather than encountering the iconic search bar, Google logo, and the unadorned white interface we have all become accustomed to, each user’s feed will be unique. As I start to layer on more of the topics I am interested in, Google gains more information with which to tailor my feed.

On the Google mobile app, based on my selection above, my homepage looks as follows:

This is quite a big departure and is an experience we should expect the website to mirror soon. For now, the latter retains enough of the old aesthetic to be recognizable, but the app-based version is more overt in its positioning of suggested content.

The trusty search bar is still there, but users are encouraged to interact with their interests too. The interface is designed for tapping as well as typing.

Sashi Thakur, a Google engineer, has said of the launch,

“We want people to understand they’re consuming information from Google. It will just be without a query.”

It is essentially an extension of the functionality that has been available in Google’s Android app since December. Google will also continue to use push notifications to send updates on traffic, weather, and sports, based on the user’s set preferences.

Why is Google launching this product now?

Google has struggled to find a significant commercial hit to rival its hugely lucrative search advertising business. That business relies on search queries and user data, so anything that leads users to spend more time on Google will be of significant value.

The same motive has led to the increased presence of Google reservations, which now allow users to make appointments for a range of services from the search results page.

As Google stated in their official announcement, “The more you use Google, the better your feed will be.”

Users type a query when they have an idea of what they want to find; Google is pre-empting this by serving us content before we are even aware of what exactly we would like to know. By offering a service that will increase in accuracy in line with increased usage, Google hopes users will get hooked on a new mode of discovering information.

This also allows Google to incorporate a number of other initiatives it has been working on, such as fact-checking and Google Posts.

You’d be forgiven for wondering whether Google is trying to find its way into social media again. After the demise of the short-lived Google+ platform, Google has seen Facebook grow as a credible threat in the battle for digital advertising dollars.

Facebook’s algorithmic news feed has been a significant factor in its rise in popularity, and with Google Posts incorporated into this news feed, there are certainly elements reminiscent of a certain social network in Google’s new homepage initiative. Readers may also recall the launch of iGoogle in 2005, a similar attempt to add some personalization to the homepage.

That said, it seems more likely that these changes have been rolled out in response to recent launches from Amazon than as a direct challenge to Facebook.

Amazon has made an almost dizzying amount of product announcements and acquisitions of late. As a pure-play ecommerce company, their rapid growth will have been cause for consternation at Google and there is a need to respond.

Of particular interest in relation to the new Google feed is the very recent launch of Amazon Spark, a shoppable feed of curated content for Amazon Prime members. It is only available via the iOS app for now, but it will be launched on Android soon too.

Spark is a rival to Instagram in some ways, with its very visual feed and some early partnerships with social media influencers. It is also similar to Pinterest, as it encourages users to save their favorite images for later and clearly tries to tap into the ‘Discovery’ phase that Pinterest has made a play for recently.

Amazon has also launched its ‘Interesting Finds’ stream, which works in a noticeably Pinterest-esque fashion:

Google has taken aim at Pinterest with its ‘Similar items’ feature and its revamped visual search technology, which feeds the new Google Lens.

In Google’s announcement of the new homepage, they make use of the verbs “discover” and “explore”. Both Amazon and Pinterest have tried to shape and monetize these phases of the search-based purchase journey; Google evidently thinks its homepage needs to take on a new life if it is to compete.

Will it open new opportunities for marketers?

Almost certainly. We should view this as a welcome addition to the elements of current search strategies, with a host of new opportunities to get in front of target audiences.

Google is not launching this product because of any existential threat to its core search product, which still dominates Western markets:

Source: Moz/Jumpshot

The update should encourage a shift in user behavior. As people get used to the new experience, they will interact with Google in new ways and marketers need to be prepared for this.

From a paid perspective, we can expect to see new options open to advertisers, but not in the immediate future.

Amazon has two innate monetization mechanisms within Spark: users have to sign up to Prime (for an annual fee) to get access and, when they do, they are served a shoppable list of results. It comes as no surprise when we are on Amazon that we will be asked if we want to buy products.

That is not always the case on Google, where the initial purpose of the news feed is to gain traction with users and encourage them to spend more time within the site.

Options for sponsored content and (almost inevitably) paid ecommerce ads will come later, once a large and engaged user base has been established.


3 Brands Using Instagram Stories Well (And What You Can Learn from Them)

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With more than 200 million daily users, it’s likely your brand has at least tinkered with Instagram Stories by now. Indeed, with that size of an audience, more and more marketers are sitting up and taking notes on the disappearing content feature.

In Instagram’s words, “…you don’t have to worry about overposting. Instead, you can share as much as you want throughout the day — with as much creativity as you want. You can bring your story to life in new ways with text and drawing tools. The photos and videos will disappear after 24 hours and won’t appear on your profile grid or in feed.”

And while more influencers and users may be leaning on Instagram Stories to distribute content to their followers, not all Stories are created equal. Some brands are truly killing it with creative, funny, or unexpected content. Their Stories certainly rise above the noise on Instagram, and their consistent efforts are rewarded with views and engagement as a result.

Which brands have become major players in the space? Here are a few of our favorites. Read on to learn what you can take from their success and implement in your own strategy. And if you need a little help creating killer content for your brand, check out our guide to using Instagram Stories.

Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps an adventure photographer used to grow from 0 to 110,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear. Plus we’ll show you how you can use Hootsuite to grow your own following on Instagram and other platforms.

General Electric—great visual storytelling

Who knew images of airplanes and turbines could garner such a large following? While you may not expect a 120-year-old company to be at the cutting edge of social media—they are. General Electric has become a master at using everything Instagram Stories has to offer.

As one of the earliest adopters of the feature, GE’s Stories content initially mirrored much of the content on its Snapchat channel. For example, one of their first Stories touted a Snapchat series on volcanoes they’d recently published.

Image: NUVI

The Instagram Story encourages viewers to check out the original post on Snapchat, but also followed up with behind-the-scenes footage revealing how they created these breathtaking images.

Since those early days, GE’s strategy has slightly shifted. Now, the company uses visual storytelling to draw in viewers and engage its almost-300,000 followers.

How to make this work for your brand

No matter your brand does or sells, storytelling is key. As research and multiple experiments have shown, telling tales can help brands sell more products. Stories drums up personal interest in your brand and products. And when customers feel like they know the story or person behind a brand, your product can have a higher perceived worth.

With that in mind, examine each piece of content through a storytelling lens. Make sure it has a beginning, middle, and end; that it communicates a coherent message; and, of course, that it makes sense for your brand.

Create quality content that tells a compelling story and viewers are more likely to engage and keep coming back for more.

NASA—adds context while promoting other content and channels

Image: NewsWhip

These Instagram Stories might leave you—ahem—starstruck. While I may be biased due to my fascination with the night sky, no one can really question NASA’s prowess when it comes to Instagram Stories.

Yes, they post some of the gorgeous images of stars and supernovas that you might expect. But the brilliance of NASA’s Story strategy is in how they use the feature to go deeper—offering background, additional info or research, and more visuals that complement their regular Instagram posts. So not only are their posts informative for fledging astronomy nerds, but all the fresh content incentivizes followers to check out both NASA’s Instagram feed and Stories.

One example is an Instagram Story NASA published to drive more followers to their @NASAPeople Twitter channel (and perhaps to recruit some new astronauts—pick me!):

Image: The Social Shakeup Show

How to make this work for your brand

While NASA may have some seriously great content fall into their laps (thanks, Space Program), any social marketer can take advantage of their learnings.

The biggest insight here is that Instagram Stories shouldn’t only be regurgitated content from Snapchat or your Instagram feed. Each post should add value and context. Create complementary content between your regular Instagram feed and your Stories content—have them build on one another. This keeps all of your posts fresh and rewards users who take the time to check out both.

GoPro—the perfect mix of original and user-generated content

Photo of the Day: Where the #🌎 slows down. Poised above the #reef, @clay_kruse glides beneath the thundering #swell of the #Pacific. • • • #GoPro #GetOutside #Underwater #Snorkeling #Selfie

A post shared by gopro (@gopro) on Jul 3, 2017 at 9:05am PDT

GoPro makes absolutely killer adventure videos that regularly top the viral video charts. Obviously the camera brand is well positioned to share incredible footage from both its in-house team and community of users.

GoPro has become synonymous with adventure, as customers don these body cameras and capture beautiful scenery and outings around the world. And that sense of adventure has obviously translated well to Instagram Stories. If you take a peek at GoPro’s Stories content, you’ll see a stunning mix of brand-owned visuals and user-generated content.

Video of the Day: #Lifestyle goals? 🌊🌴 For @alexsmith_, it’s just another day in #Bali. Edit by #GoProFamily member, @chrisrogersza. • • • #GoPro #GoProTravel #Indonesia #GoProSurf #Wanderlust

A post shared by gopro (@gopro) on Jul 8, 2017 at 12:06pm PDT

How to make this work for your brand

There are two takeaways here. First, don’t shy away from using professional photography to represent your brand. GoPro’s images and videos are high-quality and eye-catching. It’s almost impossible not to be drawn in.

Second, don’t forget about the opportunity to use curated content on your social media channels. If, like GoPro, you have customers or clients creating amazing content that’s relevant to the rest of your audience, then consider reposting it (with permission, of course).

And now that you’ve got a solid idea of what works for some of the top companies using Instagram Stories, you can use it as inspiration and apply the tactics and content types to your own efforts. Happy posting.

Social media moves fast and keeping up with the rate of change—new platforms and shifting best practices—can be tough. Learn the fundamental social media marketing skills you need to stay ahead of the pack with free training from Hootsuite Academy.

Learn More

The post 3 Brands Using Instagram Stories Well (And What You Can Learn from Them) appeared first on Hootsuite Social Media Management.


Web Typography Fundamentals with Jason Santa Maria

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In this brand new Skillshare course from award-winning designer, author, and type expert Jason Santa Maria, you will learn what makes a great online typeface, how to know when a font works and other advice for how to design with fonts.

This is a perfect class for designers, marketers, and everyone writing on the web!

In 9 clear lessons, Jason breaks down every aspect of online type, from practical design considerations to cultivating a discerning, artistic eye. Packed with examples and inspiration, this class is a rich introduction to the limitless world of typography.

» Watch Introduction Video for Free

Web Type Fundamentals

Key lessons include:

  • Understanding key terms and typographic elements
  • Choosing specific typefaces for different projects
  • Pairing typefaces to create a personal webpage
  • Layout basics: sizing, spacing, and proportions

Whether you use typography in professional designs, meeting presentations, or personal projects, this class will change the way you interact with type.

By the end, you’ll have a new arsenal of skills to help you see type in a whole new way — empowering you to use type intentionally, better communicate your ideas, and bring your words to life.

2 Free Months of Skillshare Premium!

Get unlimited access to this class and 16,000+ more with Skillshare Premium.

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Google drops the boom on WoSign, StartCom certs for good

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reader comments

Last August, after being alerted by GitHub’s security team that the certificate authority WoSign had errantly issued a certificate for a GitHub domain to someone other than GitHub, Google began an investigation in collaboration with the Mozilla Foundation and a group of security professionals into the company’s certificate issuance practices. The investigation uncovered a pattern of bad practices at WoSign and its subsidiary StartCom dating back to the spring of 2015. As a result, Google moved last October to begin distrusting new certificates issued by the two companies, stating “Google has determined that two CAs, WoSign and StartCom, have not maintained the high standards expected of CAs and will no longer be trusted by Google Chrome.”

WoSign (based in Shenzen, China) and StartCom (based in Eliat, Israel) are among the few low-cost certificate providers who’ve offered wildcard certificates. StartCom’s StartSSL offers free Class 1 certificates, and $60-per-year wildcard certificates—allowing the use of a single certificate on multiple subdomains with a single confirmation. This made the service wildly popular. But bugs in WoSign’s software allowed a number of misregistrations of certificates. One bug allowed someone with control of a subdomain to claim control of the whole root domain for certificates. The investigation also found that WoSign was backdating the SSL certificates it issued to get around the deadline set for certificate authorities to stop issuing SHA-1 SSL certificates by January 1, 2016. WoSign continued to issue the less secure SHA-1 SSL certificates well into 2016.

Initially, Google only revoked trust for certificates issued after October 21, 2016. But over the past six months, Google has walked that revocation back further, only whitelisting certificates for domains from a list based on Alexa’s top one million sites. But today, Google announced that it would phase out trust for all WoSign and StartCom certificates with the release of Chrome 61. That release, about to be released for beta testing, will be fully released in September.

Mozilla has not yet announced a termination for support of older WoSign and StartCom certificates. However, as most of the certificates issued by the companies have a one-year expiration, many of the whitelisted certificates have already begun to expire. Source: