Computer Infection? – Search Engine Links Might Be The Culprit

image Search engines, including Google, do a relatively good job of scanning their index for potentially dangerous sites. Nevertheless, scanning does not detect all potentially dangerous sites – not even close.

According to Dasient, a Web Anti-malware developer – using a proprietary malware analysis platform, which gathers data on web-based malware attacks from across the web, they concluded that more than 560,000 Web sites, and 5.5 million pages, were infected with malware in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Keep in mind that these infected sites and pages have, in most cases, been indexed by search engines.

We should all be aware by now, that cybercriminals are masters at seizing opportunity, and in the current environment, Internet search engine results provide just that.

Consider this: if one were to poll a group of typical Internet users as to the safety and reliability of search engine results, including the pervasive ads that search engines sprout; there is little doubt that the answer would be positive.

image

This is an image of Google search results that link to malware infected sites, courtesy of Sunbelt Software.

Paradoxically, it’s because current anti-malware solutions are more effective than they have ever been in detecting worms and viruses, that we’re now faced with yet another form of insidious attack – the drive-by download, resident on many of these compromised sites.

Drive-by downloads, which don’t require user action to create an infection, are not new; they’ve been lurking around for years it seems, but they’ve become much more common, as these statistics indicate.

Given that search engine results can be manipulated in this way (see “Search Engine Results – Malware Heaven!” on this site), it’s reasonable to ask the question – why aren’t more typical Internet users aware of this situation?

The obvious answer is – search engines make little or no effort to educate their users in the risks involved in relying on search results, or advertisements, appearing in their applications.

As a consequence, the typical user I come into contact with believes search engine output to be untainted, and free of potential harmful exposure to malware.

Fact: Consumer confidence in the strength and reliability of search engine results, particularly ads, is seriously misplaced.

Fact: The ongoing failure to protect the Internet, which by definition is an open network, will continue to expose users to substantial penalties; ranging from productivity decreases, infrastructure compromise, to a failure in consumer confidence, and more.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – an argument can be made, that the Internet has turned into a playground for cyber-criminals.

So will search engine providers address the issues described in this article? Sure, but only when outraged consumers finally force them to. Great business model!!

To reduce the chances that you will be victimized by malicious search engine results, you should consider installing WOT, which in my view, is the best Internet browser protection available. WOT, a free browser add-on, is designed to warn you of unsafe, or malicious links.

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12 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Internet Safety, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Safe Surfing, Software, Windows Tips and Tools, WOT (Web of Trust)

12 responses to “Computer Infection? – Search Engine Links Might Be The Culprit

  1. WOT is ok.
    Internet+malware+naivety (or curiosity)=problem
    Nice time Bill 🙂

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Robert,

      “Internet+malware+naivety (or curiosity)=problem”. Couldn’t have said that better myself.

      Bill

  2. Hi Bill,

    I recently switched from the Opera browser to Google Chrome, mainly because of problems with my blog. However, one of the side effects of switching is the fact that I can now use WOT as a Chrome extension.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Paul,

      Changing a browser is worse than a divorce; maybe not quite, but…..

      I think using WOT, will give you another insight into the underbelly of the Net.

      Bill

  3. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Have been using WOT since I’ve been reading your blog, both on Chrome and Firefox. I wouldn’t be without it now, excellent addon.

    Cheers

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Mal,

      I’ve always maintained, that surfing without WOT is like skydiving without a parachute. I’m very glad to hear that you’re a believer. Do your friends a BIG favor, and convert them.

      BTW, send me some of that hot weather you’ve got down under – I’m freezing my a** off up here. LOL

      Best,

      Bill

  4. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    That’s a deal, if you send me some cold weather. It’s easier to get warm, but hard to stay cool. I am dreading my next power bill, the airconditioner hasn’t been off.

    Cheers

  5. Ranjan

    Ofcourse browsing net w/o WOT is like skydiving without a parachute or doing a bunjee jump without a rope..
    Also, to provide one more security layer to the pc, a sandbox or a virtual system is the best preventive measure one can think of.. I always browse sandboxed…
    And one more thing i do is that i never click on any ad.. Its better to be safe than to be sorry…;)

  6. I use both WOT and McAfee Site Advisor–what one misses, the other often gets. But one still has to exercise caution–they don’t always pick up newly created drive-bys, and WOT sometimes make mistakes by labelling safe sites unsafe. I think of them like seatbelts–I use them, but I still have to drive carefully, as seatbelts may save my life, but may not prevent me from being seriously injured!

    • Bill Mullins

      Hi Susan,

      I like your seat belt analogy – that works quite nicely, (might have to borrow that from you).

      As you rightly point out – “one still has to exercise caution”.

      Thanks for coming by.

      Best,

      Bill

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