The methods are being described as BlackHat which has a negative connotation however the actual technique is not what you would consider hacking.
The way it works is SEO analysts examined how results for certain product were being returned and then they manufactured links that were distributed on many many sites that contained those search keys and linked to the retailers website.
Something like <a href=”http://www.retailsite.omc”>Buy Cheap Crap</a>
and when people would go to Google and type in “Buy Cheap Crap” they would find links to the retailer’s website.
I don’t know I think this is simple back-linking and even if sites were paid to display these links it seems that this is not hacking or hijacking of results and more a planned strategy by the retailer.
Actually this is probably more about the NY Times trying to say they are relevant in the Tech Reporting Industry rather then major wrong doing that was uncovered. Unfortunately they are a few months late and a dollar short.
Google when contacted said they saw the results change and modified their algorithm as they normally do constantly to take care of any link pushing.
Maybe the Times just needs to shutdown and let people who understand the business report about the business.