Feeds

Miscreants subvert search results to punt malware

Using botnets to plant links and nurture zombie farms

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Miscreants have set out to poison search results with links to malware infested sites via a new campaign.

Users searching Google or other prominent search engines for sites referring to innocuous terms ranging from "alternative router firmware" to "cotton gin and slavery" are often confronted with a list of results where at least some point to malware.

Comment spam attacks, which involve posting links to dodgy sites on blogs, have been taking place for at least three years. Search engines such as Google give priority to sites linked to from popular web destinations. Spammers and their hacking accomplices try to take advantage of this behaviour in order to illicitly gain higher places in search page rankings.

Crackers are now getting into the act in order to punt malware. The malign sites often appear in the top ten lists for a particular search term though rarely (if ever) as a top entry. Miscreants are essentially gaming search engines' ranking systems by automatically posting links to malign sites in blog and forum posts.

It's another example of bots being used to further an attempt to create further opportunities to ensnare the unwary, thereby creating a bigger network of compromised machines.

Anti-spyware firm Sunbelt Software said hackers have also created "tens of thousands of individual pages" that have been meticulously established with the goal of obtaining a high search engine ranking. "Just about any search term you can think of can be found in these pages," reports Sunbelt researcher Adam Thomas.

Sunbelt has unearthed evidence of a network of bots whose sole purpose is to post spam links and relevant keywords into online forms. This network, combined with thousands of pages, have given the attackers very good (if not top) search engine positions for various search terms, the security firm reports.

Surfers who stray onto the malicious sites with vulnerable systems are infected with a strain of malware called Scam-Iwin, using the infamous iFrame IE exploit. The exploit was patched by Microsoft months ago, but many vulnerable systems remain.

Computers infected with Scam-Iwin transmit false clicks to the hacker's URLs without the user's knowledge. These bogus hits generate income for hackers through a pay-per-click affiliate program. Scam-Iwin also attempts to download other items of malware (including Trojans and keystroke loggers) onto compromised PCs, Sunbelt reports.

Sunbelt has posted screenshots of several Google search results featuring links to malware-infecting sites, along with an additional explanation of the attack, here. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.