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New York Times pwned to serve scareware pop-ups

Gray Lady gets goosed

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The New York Times was co-opted into pushing fake anti-virus malvertisements after hackers broke into its banner ad feed over the weekend.

Surfers visiting the site were confronted by malicious pop-up window that falsely warned that their systems were infected. The ruse was designed to scare people into buying a clean-up utility of little or no value.

The NYT issued a warning (extract below) on the front page of the website and via its Twitter feed on Sunday. The paper explained that the pop-ups were the result of an "unauthorised advertisement".

Some NYTimes.com readers have seen a pop-up box warning them about a virus and directing them to a site that claims to offer antivirus software. We believe this was generated by an unauthorized advertisement and are working to prevent the problem from recurring. If you see such a warning, we suggest that you not click on it. Instead, quit and restart your Web browser. Questions and comments can be sent to webeditor@nytimes.com.

Screenshots of the rogue antivirus attack in progress can be found in a Trend Micro blog here. And, for the technically minded, there's an analysis of the code behind the attack by security researcher Troy Davis here.

Trend reports that the scareware involved in the attack was served up by German ISP Hetzner AG. Similar attacks have hit media outlets including The Daily Mail and ITV of recent months. Sophos reckons that the prime responsibility in defending against the attack relies on ad-serving networks rather than media outlets. ®

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