Feeds

Google sponsored links caught punting malware

Click here to get pwned

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.