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Stealthy click fraud tool exploits 9ball attack

Meet the Keyser Soze of malware

Miscreants have developed one of most sophisticated click fraud malware applications to date.

The Trojan code - dubbed FFsearcher by security firm SecureWorks - plugs into a Google API that allows webmasters to add a Google-powered search widget (called "Google Custom Search") to their website. In normal use, search results made via the widget are displayed alongside Google AdSense ads, with webmasters receiving a small fee every time a surfer follows an ad.

The malware hijacks this feature so that every search an infected user makes is performed through a search widget under their control, so that they get paid by Google every time a surfer clicks on a sponsored ad. Hackers have also worked out a means to pull off this sleight of hand without giving any indication to surfers that anything might be amiss. Google might find it hard to unravel instances of fraud.

As such, the attack is more sophisticated than previous click fraud approaches, which relied on tricks such as changing a surfer's start page and searches to point to a third-party search engine, types of behaviour that might more easily be detected. FFsearcher works on both IE and Firefox.

"Every click on an ad is user-generated, and the user never notices any change in their web-surfing experience," writes Joe Stewart, director of malware analysis at SecureWorks.

FFsearcher is part of the exploit bundle spread by the recent Nine-ball mass compromise, SecureWorks adds. A comprehensive write-up of the attack - complete with screenshots - can be found here. ®

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