Feeds

Worm automates Google AdSense fraud

Click-fraud menace spreads using IM

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

Virus writers have crafted a malware threat that serves up expensive Google AdSense web pages related to mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

Industry workers affected by the disease have launched a series of lawsuits, a factor that means "ambulance chasing" lawyers pay through the nose to get a mention when searches for the term "mesothelioma" are made. The cost-per-click for the term "mesothelioma" is among the highest in the online ads business ranging from $4 to $13 and higher on various keyword bidding networks.

This, in turn, makes the term a prime target for click-fraud. Google AdSense allows online publishers to make revenue by displaying Google ads relevant to the content of their site. Because Google pays the host Web site based on the number of clicks on their ads, the process can be susceptible to "click-fraud".

The KMeth worm, which targets Yahoo! Messenger users, directs infected users to a web site serving a barrage of Google AdSense advertisements related to mesothelioma. Financially-motivated malware writers apparently hope to cash on the ruse through shares in the resulting advertising commissions which we doubt will materialise. Fraud detection mechanisms employed by Google are more than likely to identify rogue sites generating suspiciously high returns using such illicit tactics but that doesn't eliminate the other security risks consumers face from the worm.

KMeth exploits IE vulnerabilities to infect surfers who visit malware infested sites controlled by hackers, promoted through IM messages sent to the Yahoo! Messenger contacts of infected users. The "status message" in Yahoo! Messenger can also be also hijacked, presenting potentially enticing messages to their contacts, such as "check out my blog" in order to trick potential marks into becoming infected, IM security firm FaceTime reports.

Meanwhile an infected user's IM control panel is disabled, and their home page is hijacked to point towards rogue web sites designed to generate maximum revenue through click fraud. Using malware to perpetrate click-fraud is an established technique but the KMeth worm extends this idea by employing a battery of social engineering techniques.

"Typically, financially-driven malware attacks use botnets to fraudulently increase traffic to specific online advertisements," said Chris Boyd, director of malware research for FaceTime Security Labs. "In this case, the hackers have cleverly borrowed tactics from botnet-creators to create a bot-less network of hijacked PC users to drive traffic to sites populated with these specific Google AdSense advertisements. Introducing the human factor into the scenario makes these 'bot-less nets' much more difficult to detect."

A full write-up of the threat can be found on FaceTime's security research blog here. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.