SEOUL, Sept. 29 (Korea Bizwire) – A 32-year old former pro gamer and his 3-person team are being investigated by the police for an operation manipulating Naver search results that netted them 3.3 billion won.
The former pro gamer (hereafter “Lee”) began fixing search engine results in 2014 after realizing that small to medium size businesses were eager to raise their search result rankings.
Using smartphones and computers, Lee developed software that would repeatedly input desired keywords like “Best Restaurant” into Naver’s search bar.
Lee designed his software so that when the desired search result appeared, in this case “Best Restaurant”, the software immediately clicked on and opened the website.
Through this barrage of searches and clicks, Lee successfully raised the online profile of certain businesses.
Naver ranks its search results in order of most searched or clicked from top to bottom.
As Lee’s business grew, he eventually hired an associate and two employees. For their headquarters, the team commissioned the construction of a 330 square meter, 3-story building in which they housed over 100 computers and smartphones running their search engine fixing software.
Now a licensed business, Lee’s company further expanded its software capabilities by enabling their devices to be able to use two IP addresses.
To protect against search manipulation, Naver is designed to remove search results that have been searched repeatedly from a single IP address. Lee’s tweaking of his software meant that this feature was no longer an obstacle.
The prosecution for this case believes that around 1.33 million search requests were fed through Lee’s software. These requests included the names of restaurants, medical clinics, and after school academies, etc.
The exact details of their annual revenue have not yet been determined. However, the prosecution discovered that one of Lee’s clients paid 200 million won to stay on top of the search result rankings throughout the year.
A spokesperson for the prosecution said regarding the case, “There was a problem before pertaining to search manipulation, which is why Naver implemented its IP address filtering system, but through organized crime manipulation it has become possible.”
Lee and the associate are being held in custody, while the two employees have been booked without being detained. Investigations are ongoing.