Virus botnet siphons money away from Google
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.
Victims then join a botnet that manipulates their Google search results.
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.
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