Feeds

Miscreants subvert search results to punt malware

Using botnets to plant links and nurture zombie farms

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
UK smart meters arrive in 2020. Hackers have ALREADY found a flaw
Energy summit bods warned of free energy bonanza
DRUPAL-OPCALYPSE! Devs say best assume your CMS is owned
SQLi hole was hit hard, fast, and before most admins knew it needed patching
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Mozilla releases geolocating WiFi sniffer for Android
As if the civilians who never change access point passwords will ever opt out of this one
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.