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Google hoodwinked into pushing Chrome OS scareware

Tamper tantrum

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Rogue anti-virus scammers have tainted search results for Chromium OS - the open source version of Google's Chrome OS - in a bid to expose surfers hunting the web operating system to a fake anti-virus scan scam instead.

Search terms such as "chromium os download" point to sites featuring scripts that redirect stray surfers towards scareware scam portals. These sites falsely report that users PCs are loaded with malware before pushing users to download a clean-up tool little or no utility. The SecureKeeper utility offered through the scam uses a series of aggressive and misleading tricks to coerce people into paying $49.95 to purchase a licence, as explained in a blog post by security firm eSoft here.

Something very similar happened when Google released its Wave collaboration tool. In both cases, surfers are only redirected to scareware-punting portals in cases where they arrive as bobby-trapped URLs via Google search results. Both the Google Wave and Chromium Os scams refer to a product or service that is not yet generally available, a factor that arguably increases the potency of scams.

Both attacks (like many before them) rely on black hat Search Engine Optimisation techniques. Cybercrooks typically break into well-established sites and create webpages stuffed full with relevant keywords, cross-linked to other sites doctored using the same technique. The tactic is geared towards tricking search engines into pushing manipulated URLs higher up the search engine indexes for targeted terms.

"Attackers will regularly change redirect URLs, malware distribution points and final payloads," eSoft explains. "This allows them to keep PageRank high and evade detection by anti-virus programs and web filters."

Such Blackhat SEO attacks are increasingly frequent and almost invariably themed around trending topics, such as the release of the latest edition of the Twilight film saga or Google Chromium OS, to quote just two recent examples from last week alone.. ®

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