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Search-Engine Poisoning Abusing Major News Events

According to security company McAfee's Q1-2010 Threats Report, launched on May 18, 2010, online crooks are manipulating widely read news items to fulfill their malevolent purposes. Apple's iPad, recalling of Toyota, and the Chile and Haiti earthquakes are just a few among the search phrases which the crooks are misusing for poisoning results returned by search engines.

Reported McAfee that ever-since there've been considerable increase in search-engine corruption in 2009, the con artists, in 2010, have been using current news items to manipulate search engines for pushing web-links which point to malevolent sites.

Besides, just like well-intended security specialists, cyber-criminals adopt page ranking and analytics for finding out the most widely used keywords so they can trap victims. This was prominent during Q1-2010.

Furthermore, attackers frequently inter-link websites with widely used keywords pulled from Google Trends or other RSS feeds. This they do to divert Web-surfers onto sites that promote bogus anti-virus software and then lure them towards buying rogue security product.

Security researchers, while remarking about this problem stated that there was a rapid rise in corrupted search attacks. Nevertheless, it would require much greater efforts to beat the enormous spam volumes that were responsible for about 90% of the total e-mail traffic. Still, the increased search engine poisoning attacks portended worry.

Additionally, McAfee's report disclosed that most of the fresh malevolent URLs were hosted by US-based servers. Indeed, McAfee TrustedSource system found that nearly 98% of these URLs were hosted by US servers during Q1-2010.

Explained the security researchers that the reason why such a huge number of fresh malevolent URLs are harbored in the US is that there are numerous different Web 2.0 Services, a majority of which get locations in the US. Of the rest 2%, China harbored 61% and Canada hosted 34%.

Meanwhile, McAfee Labs further observed that search engine poisoning resulted in click frauds of different kinds and in network exploitation. According to one instance, in Q1-2010, a scam exploited the high position of Digg for leveraging the attack. When unwary users hit on the link embedded on Digg, a video appeared which when clicked, led to a payment demand.

Related article: Surge in Spam attack

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