Feeds

Google sponsored links caught punting malware

Click here to get pwned

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Researchers from Websense have caught Google carrying ads punting rogue software that secretly installs malware on the PCs of its users.

Recent Google searches for Winrar turned up sponsored links that offer a "spyware free" copy of the widely used data-compression application. Google users unfortunate enough to download and install that software are soon exposed to a program that makes changes to their PC's hosts file. From then on, every time the users try to visit Google, Yahoo, and other popular sites, they are instead sent to an impostor site under the control of the attackers.

The operation is another testament to the resourcefulness of those running rogue software scams. Rather than relying on zero-day vulnerabilities or hard-to-execute website hijackings, they often find it easier to snare their victims through legitimate ads placed on Google or elsewhere.

"This raises some questions," Websense researcher Elad Sharf writes. "Is this problem Google's fault for not checking whether advertised links actually serve malware? Is it the miseducated user's fault for getting infected?"

Probably a little of both, but are we the only ones who find it ironic that Google's own anti-malware initiative imposes draconian punishments on smaller websites when they're caught doing the same thing? Websense, which first witnessed the scam last week, said the malicious Google links were still available when it posted this report on Sunday.

A Google spokesman said the company is in the process of removing the offending sites from its ad network. "Google is committed to ensuring the safety and security of our users and our advertisers," he said.

As a recent complaint filed by Federal Trade Commission shows, purveyors of rogue anti-virus and other software spend millions of dollars per year advertising their wares on legitimate sites - and go to great lengths to conceal their behavior. No doubt, Google isn't the only advertiser to be tricked into running malevolent ads, but as the do-no-evil company that's steam-rolling its competition in the ad industry, it's hard to believe these kind of links are still being sponsored. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
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
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
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
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.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.