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Virus botnet siphons money away from Google


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June 6, 2009

A security compromise that is moving virally across many Web sites is making unsuspecting Internet users who surf to them part of a botnet that redirects Google search results, a security researcher has warned. During the past week, the number of Web sites identified as infected have almost tripled, according to researcher Mary Landesman with real-time malware scanning specialist ScanSafe tracking the attacks since the month of March.

Usually, Internet compromises die out after a few weeks, as search engines and anti-virus programs have some kind of a defensive mechanism to them. But that's not happening this time, and this has more than one security expert worried.

"The rapid growth rate is very unusual for this type of compromise, and the fact that it's escalating so quickly is what has us really concerned," Landesman said.

The security exploit code is very unique for every website, making it impossible to identify a compromised site from another until someone has accidentally surfed there. It uses obfuscated Javascript that's burried deep into a website's source code to exploit unpatched vulnerabilities in a visitor's Adobe Flash and Reader programs.

Victims then join a botnet that manipulates their Google search results.

The malware also sifts through a victim's computer in search of FTP credentials that can be used to infect still more websites with the malicious Javascript. The combination of its stealth and ability to find new websites is allowing the infection to grow virally, Landesman said.

The goal of the malware appears to be to siphon dollars away from Google's highly profitable advertising system known as Google Adwords and Google AdSense. By injecting ads and links into certain searches, infected users see results that are different than they would otherwise be.

The longevity of the mass compromise speaks to the resourcefulness of the attackers. When they first set out, they dropped static attack code into PHP, HTML and other scripts of infected websites, but in time, Web site owners learned how to detect and remove the infection.

The attackers soon started a second wave of repeated attacks that installed dynamically generated malware on infected sites as soon as the static script was removed.

The source of the latest Javascript is, which has a Moscow IP address that reverses to

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Source: ScanSafe.


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