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Google Instant a potential bonanza for search scams

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Security watchers are concerned that scareware scammers may quickly adapt to the introduction of real-time search technology from Google to develop even more potent search engine poisoning attacks.

Google Instant speeds up search results by working as users type into the Google search box. The technology predicts what users are trying to type and rapidly makes suggestions on which search term is most relevant, all in real time.

Blackhat SEO threats typically seek to make sure links to malicious sites are returned close to the top of searches for topical terms. The problem has bedevilled search engines for years and more recently has become the main tactic in promoting rogue anti-virus (AKA scareware) scam portals.

Sean-Paul Correll, a security researcher at Panda Security, warns that this contamination of search results might become even worse with the advent of 'real-time' search.

"This new technology can potentially improve existing Blackhat SEO campaigns," Correll warns. "We know for a fact that most Blackhat SEO campaigns automatically query Google’s trending topic results and now it seems that Google Instant will be suggesting those trending phrases (verbatim), potentially putting millions of victims directly in cyber criminals' cross hairs."

Not to worry though - we expect Google is even now coming up with a clever way to make search engine manipulation a thing of the past.

Or perhaps not.

Typing in "anti-virus" in Google, with the new real-time search technology enabled, returned Antivir Solution Pro, a well-known scareware pathogen, in a prominent position among the suggested search terms, as a blog post by Correll illustrates. ®

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