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Google-based malware search tool surfaces

Malicious code mining fails to undermine society

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The creator of the Metasploit hacking tool has released code that can be used to find malicious software using specially-crafted Google search queries. The malware search engine created by H.D. Moore can be found here.

Google's search engine indexes not only file types such as PDFs and HTML files (for example), but executable files as well. Many, but not all, of these hits will correspond to legitimate download sites. Moore's malware search engine has been coded with around 300 malware signatures (plans are afoot to expand this database). The search engine searches the web to find live samples of executable files associated with these signatures.

The release of Moore's tool was partially prompted by recent research by net security firm Websense, which warned that Google can be used to search for malware. Websense (unlike Moore) didn't publically release any code but the findings of its research give some insight into the distribution of malicious binaries on the web.

Websense was able to collect thousands of pieces of malicious binaries, mostly posted to newsgroups with bogus names designed to trick users into executing computer viruses that pose as software cracks or pornographic images. It also found malware on forum sites, as well as compromised sites or underground hacking and virus writing sites. Websense found several pieces of spyware on poker and casino sites. It also found variants of the Bagel virus and Mytob worms, various trojans, and many other malicious binaries.

In a statement, Websense downplayed the threat posed by Google's malware indexing but it did warn that the feature might potentially be misused by malware authors. Google told IDG that it was working to block search results that pointed towards malicious executables. Moore said that Google was, in any case, a poor resource for hackers searching for malign executables.

"Attackers have much better sources of malware, and the items in the Google index are not recent or useful," he told IDG. "If anything, the Google index is a great tool for determining who distributes malware; the actual malware in question is not that interesting."

Metaspolit

The Metasploit Project provides information about security vulnerabilities and develops tools that aid penetration testing and the development of signature files for intrusion detection products. Its code, such as that used for the malware search engine, is released under an open source framework.

Used legitimately, the Metasploit tool allows security consultants and sys admin to identify and remediate against security vulnerabilities. But the tool can also be used by malicious hackers to search for security holes in targeted systems. ®

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