Tag Archives: Toolbars

Search Engine Results – Not to be Trusted!

It’s been more than a year since I last reported on fake search engine results, and in that time, this Internet scam has not gone away, but it did seem to develop a lower profile.

Despite developing this lower profile, cyber-crooks continued to be unrelenting in their chase to infect web search results. Recently, there has been a resurgence in the use of custom-built Websites designed to drop malicious code on computers, and in the manipulation of legitimate pages in order to infect computers with malware.

A new grouping of 200,000+ compromised sites has been discovered, all of them redirecting to fake security software. The following graphic (courtesy of Cyveillance Blog), shows an attack underway.

image

As is usual with this type of redirection, when a potential victim visits one of these sites the likelihood of the downloading of malicious code onto the computer, by exploiting existing vulnerabilities, is extremely high.

The following graphic (courtesy of Cyveillance Blog), illustrates 260,000 sites, they discovered, which will redirect.

image

Redirection exploit process:

Generally, there are several ways that this can occur. Cyber-crooks can exploit vulnerabilities on the server hosting the web page to insert an iFrame, (an HTML element which makes it possible to embed another HTML document inside the main document). The iFrame can then activate the download of malicious code by exploiting additional vulnerabilities on the visiting machine.

Alternatively, a new web page can be built, with iFrames inserted, that can lead to malware downloads. This new web page appears to be legitimate.

Another method is the insertion of false dialogue boxes, fake toolbars, and more on sites; all designed to load destructive malware which could include rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots.

It’s often difficult to determine who the cybercriminals responsible for specific attacks of this type are, but not in this case. Researchers have concluded the infamous Koobface gang are responsible.

Regular readers are aware that we repeat the following advice regularly, but it’s worth repeating.

Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched.

Install an Internet Browser add-on that provides protection against questionable or unsafe websites. My personal favorite is WOT (Web of Trust), an Internet Explorer/FireFox add-on that offers substantial protection against questionable or unsafe websites.

Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use.

Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible.

Disable scripting features in email programs.

Make regular backups of critical data.

Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised.

Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer.

Install a personal firewall on the computer.

Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet.

Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments.

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7 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Firefox Add-ons, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Rogue Software, scareware, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

Google – Get Off Your Collective Butts and Fix The Problem!

google-logo Internet security is a “sexy” business – one gets to work in the “dark side” of the Internet and is constantly challenged to stay ahead of the learning curve, develop new techniques, appliances and applications to protect Web sites, and attached devices and systems, from hackers, cyber-crooks, malware and while understated, terrorists.

Failure to protect the Internet, which by definition is an open network, has substantial penalties ranging from productivity decreases, infrastructure compromise, to a failure in consumer confidence and more. It’s this last one – a failure in consumer confidence that is the focus of this article.

In dealing with Internet security issues, I’m often frustratingly reminded of the “head in the sand syndrome” – if we ignore it will go away, if we ignore it then it can’t be real, if we ignore it will get better, anon. It’s no surprise then that a substantial security issue, well known to Google, which has failed to come up with an effective solution, continues to plague the Internet.

Those of us who are involved in Internet security know, and have known for a considerable time, that cyber-crooks are unrelenting in their chase to infect web search results. We know that there has been a steady increase in the use of custom-built Websites designed to drop malicious code on computers, and in the manipulation of legitimate pages in order to infect computers with malware.

For example, until quite recently (less than 3 weeks ago), a user searching for the following string on Google “Microsoft Office 2002 download” would have encountered a Microsoft.com redirection link as the first result. That link had been redirecting visitors to a malicious web site, that then launched a malware attack which included an attempt to convince victims to download rogue security software. Microsoft has since fixed the problem.

Equally as disturbing, seventy nine percent of compromised web pages tracked in the last year were on legitimate web sites; including web sites belonging to Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and ironically, security vendors.

google_adwords_machine

If one were to poll a group of typical Internet users as to the safety and reliability of search engine results there is little doubt that the answer would be positive. Given that search engine results can be manipulated in the ways described above, and other ways, it is reasonable to ask the question – why aren’t typical Internet users aware of this situation.

Arguably, a case could be made that Google and others subscribe to the “head in the sand syndrome” – if we ignore it will go away, if we ignore it then it can’t be real, if we ignore it will get better, since to acknowledge this issue, and to give it the focus it deserves, would erode consumer confidence in the product. Good corporate thinking, huh?

Here’s a sample of what Internet users are facing, posted on the Internet just today, January 16, 2009:

“I’m the owner of the site http://www.xxxxxx.net. When anyone searches Google for our firm, the first result looks like the link to our site. But when anyone clicks on that result they get redirected to an alarming site that tries to sell fake spam software. The hijack site takes control of the browser! This is happening when our potential clients search for us! Help! If I type the address directly into my browser then it works fine. I submitted a spam report to Google a couple of days ago, but nothing has changed yet”.

So how do the crooks do it?

Common techniques used by cyber-criminals include the manipulation of search engine results, and the seeding of fake Websites among the top results returned by these engines. When a potential victim visits one of these sites (as described above), the likelihood of the downloading of malicious code onto the computer, by exploiting existing vulnerabilities, is extremely high.

There are several ways that this can occur. Cyber-crooks can exploit vulnerabilities on the server hosting the web page to insert an iFrame, (an HTML element which makes it possible to embed another HTML document inside the main document). The iFrame can then activate the download of malicious code by exploiting additional vulnerabilities on the visiting machine.

Alternatively, a new web page can be built, with iFrames inserted, that can lead to malware downloads. This new web page appears to be legitimate.

An additional method, employed by cyber-crooks is the insertion of false dialogue boxes, fake toolbars, and more on sites; all designed to load destructive malware which could include rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots.

So will Google address this issue? Sure, but only when malicious hackers finally force them to. Great business model Google!

Be proactive when it comes to your computer’s security; make sure you have adequate software based protection to reduce the chances that your machine will become infected.

Checkout Need Free Security Programs? – 10 Of The Best! on this site

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Hacked, Google, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, System Security, trojans, Viruses, worms

Fake/Redirected Search Results – Consequences for You

I hate being victimized! Unfortunately, all of us who use the Internet can be victimized in ways that sometimes defy credibility. Ironically, even those of us who specialize in Internet security can be targeted by cyber-criminals.

Several weeks ago, one of my Blog sites was the target of redirected search engine results. Essentially, what had been happening is this – when a search was made by a web user which produced a result listing my site, and the user clicked on that link, in some circumstances, the user was redirected to a site, or page, controlled by a hijacker.

While this exploit didn’t impact me financially, since I don’t run ads on my sites, it was disappointing knowing that cyber-criminals were potentially benefiting economically from the results of my efforts. Very often, the purpose behind this type of attack is the hacker’s need to increase his site’s reputation on Google, and other search engines, by fraudulently increasing the site’s hits. This can lead to an increase in profits generated by that site.

The dangers to you:

Those of us who are involved in Internet security know – cyber-crooks are unrelenting in their chase to infect web search results. We know that there has been a steady increase in the use of custom-built Websites designed to drop malicious code on computers, and in the manipulation of legitimate pages in order to infect computers with malware.

Earlier today, I read on the Darkreading Website, a security site for IT professionals, “that hackers have launched a multi-faceted attack on the Website of the popular AARP organization, rerouting traffic from the seniors’ association to pornography sites”. A bit chancy, I would have thought.

Other common techniques used by these cyber-criminals include the manipulation of search engine results, and the seeding of Websites among the top results returned by these engines. When a potential victim visits one of these sites the likelihood of the downloading of malicious code onto the computer, by exploiting existing vulnerabilities, is extremely high.

There are several ways that this can occur. Cyber-crooks can exploit vulnerabilities on the server hosting the web page to insert an iFrame, (an HTML element which makes it possible to embed another HTML document inside the main document). The iFrame can then activate the download of malicious code by exploiting additional vulnerabilities on the visiting machine.

Alternatively, a new web page can be built, with iFrames inserted, that can lead to malware downloads. This new web page appears to be legitimate.

Another method is the insertion of false dialogue boxes, fake toolbars, and more on sites; all designed to load destructive malware which could include rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots.

So what can you do to ensure you are protected, or to reduce the chances you will become a victim?

Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched.

Install an Internet Browser add-on that provides protection against questionable or unsafe websites. My personal favorite is WOT (Web of Trust), an Internet Explorer/FireFox add-on that offers substantial protection against questionable or unsafe websites.

Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use.

Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible.

Disable scripting features in email programs.

Make regular backups of critical data.

Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised.

Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer.

Install a personal firewall on the computer.

Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet.

Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments.

5 Comments

Filed under Browsers, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Internet Safety Tools, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Search Engines, Spyware - Adware Protection, trojans, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools

Malware by Proxy – Fake Search Engine Results

For the past several months I’ve been watching closely, as the pace of Blog and Internet Forum debate has been escalating regarding fake search engines results and malware.

Recent news on this issue from Panda Security’s Oxygen 3 E-bulletin on IT security, indicates that Cyber-crooks are unrelenting in their chase to infect web search results. According to Panda “there is a steady increase in the use of custom-built websites designed to drop malicious code on computers, or even the manipulation of legitimate pages in order to infect users with malware.”

It was reported recently that fifteen thousand web pages were infected daily between January and March of this year; three times the rate of infection noted in the previous year. More disturbing, seventy nine percent of compromised web pages tracked this year were on legitimate web sites; including web sites belonging to Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and ironically, security vendors.

PandaLabs maintains that cyber-crooks have begun to opt for a new technique: the manipulation of search engine results, or seeding websites among the top results returned by these engines. When a potential victim visits one of these sites the likelihood of the downloading of malicious code onto the computer by exploiting existing vulnerabilities is high.

There are several ways that this can occur. Cyber-crooks can exploit vulnerabilities on the server hosting the web page to insert an iFrame, (an HTML element which makes it possible to embed another HTML document inside the main document). The iFrame can then activate the download of malicious code by exploiting additional vulnerabilities on the visiting machine.

Alternatively, a new web page can be built, with iFrames inserted, that can lead to malware downloads. This new web page appears to be legitimate.

Another method is the insertion of false dialogue boxes, fake toolbars, and more on sites; all designed to load destructive malware which could include rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots.

So what can you do to ensure you are protected, or to reduce the chances you will become a victim?

As I have pointed out in the past, the following are actions you can take to shield your computer system from malware infections:

  • Install an Internet Browser add-on such as WOT which provides detailed test results on a site’s safety; protecting you from security threats including spyware, adware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, and online scams.
  • Don’t open unknown email attachments
  • Don’t run programs of unknown origin
  • Disable hidden filename extensions
  • Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched
  • Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use
  • Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible
  • Disable scripting features in email programs
  • Make regular backups of critical data
  • Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised
  • Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer
  • Install a personal firewall on the computer
  • Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet
  • Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments

Be proactive when it comes to your computer’s security; make sure you have adequate software based protection to reduce the chances that your machine will become infected.

The free software listed below, in my view, provides better than average malware protection.

avast! 4 Home Edition

This anti virus app is a real fighter, scanning files on demand and on access, including email attachments. Let’s you know when it detects mal-ware through its shield function. An important feature is a boot-time scan option which removes mal-ware that can’t be removed any other way.

Ad-Aware 2007

In my view, Ad-Aware 2007 Free is the best free spyware and adware remover available. It does a relatively good job of protecting against known data-mining, Trojans, dialers, malware, browser hijackers and tracking components. The only downside with the free version; real-time protection is not included.

ThreatFire 3

ThreatFire 3 blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job. Again, this is one of the security applications that forms part of my front line defenses. I have found it to have high success rate at blocking mal-ware based on analysis of behavior. Highly recommend this one!

Comodo Firewall Pro

The definitive free firewall, Comodo Firewall protects your system by defeating hackers and restricting unauthorized programs from accessing the Internet. I have been using this application for 6 months and I continue to feel very secure. It resists being forcibly terminated and it works as well, or better, than any firewall I’ve paid for. This is one I highly recommend. Amazing that it’s free!

WinPatrol

Do you want to get a better understanding of what programs are being added to your computer? Then WinPatrol is the program for you. With WinPatrol, in your system tray, you can monitor system areas that are often changed by malicious programs. You can monitor your startup programs and services, cookies and current tasks. Should you need to, WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs. There are additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security applications.

Sandboxie

Surfing the Internet without using Sandboxie is, to me, like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. Deadly! This application creates a “Sandboxed” protected environment on your machine within which you browse the net. Data that is written to your hard drive is simply eliminated, (or not, your choice), when the sandbox is closed. Utilizing this application allows you to surf the web without the risk of infecting your system with mal-ware or other nasties. This is another security application I have been using for over 6 months and it has yet to let me down. Highly recommended.

Snoop Free Privacy Shield

Snoop Free Privacy Shield is a powerful application that guards your keyboard, screen and open windows from all spy software. I have been using this application for quite some time, and I have been amazed at the number of programs that have requested access to my keyboard and screen; particularly, programs that I am in the process of installing. If you’re serious about privacy, this is a must have addition to your security toolbox.

11 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Browser add-ons, Firefox Add-ons, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Internet Safety, Internet Safety Tools, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Phishing, Safe Surfing, Search Engines, Software, Uncategorized, Windows Tips and Tools

Fake/Redirected Search Engine Results = Malware


For the past several months I’ve been watching closely, as more and more Blog discussions have been taking place around the topic of search engines results and malware.

Recent news on this issue from Panda Security’s Oxygen 3 E-bulletin on IT security, indicates that Cyber-crooks are unrelenting in their chase to infect web search results. According to Panda “there is a steady increase in the use of custom-built websites designed to drop malicious code on computers, or even the manipulation of legitimate pages in order to infect users with malware.”

PandaLabs maintains that cyber-crooks have begun to opt for a new technique: the manipulation of search engine results, or seeding websites among the top results returned by these engines. When a potential victim visits one of these sites the likelihood of the downloading of malicious code onto the computer by exploiting existing vulnerabilities is high.

There are several ways that this can occur. Cyber-crooks can exploit vulnerabilities on the server hosting the web page to insert an iFrame, (an HTML element which makes it possible to embed another HTML document inside the main document). The iFrame can then activate the download of malicious code by exploiting additional vulnerabilities on the visiting machine.

Alternatively, a new web page can be built, with iFrames inserted, that can lead to malware downloads. This new web page appears to be legitimate.

Another method is the insertion of false dialogue boxes, fake toolbars, and more on sites; all designed to load destructive malware which could include rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots.

For more information on this, and other threats checkout Spyware Sucks, a great Blog that will keep you up to date on the latest risks to your online safety.

So what can you do to ensure you are protected, or to reduce the chances you will become a victim?

As I have pointed out in the past on this Blog, the following are actions you can take to protect your computer system:

• Don’t open unknown email attachments

• Don’t run programs of unknown origin

• Disable hidden filename extensions

• Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched

• Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use

• Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible

• Disable scripting features in email programs

• Make regular backups of critical data

• Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised

• Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer.

• Install a personal firewall on the computer.

• Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet.

• Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments.

Be proactive when it comes to your computer’s security; make sure you have adequate software based protection to reduce the chances that your machine will become infected.

The free software listed below, in my view, provides better than average malware protection.

avast! 4 Home Edition

www.avast.com

This anti virus app is a real fighter, scanning files on demand and on access, including email attachments. Let’s you know when it detects mal-ware through its shield function. An important feature is a boot-time scan option which removes mal-ware that can’t be removed any other way.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition

www.free.grisoft.com

Similarly, this program scans files on access, on demand, and on schedule. Scans email; incoming and outgoing. For those on Vista, your in luck, it’s Vista-ready. I have been using this application since its release and it now forms part of my front line defenses. I recommend this one highly.

Ad-Aware 2007

www.lavasoftusa.com

In my view, Ad-Aware 2007 Free is the best free spyware and adware remover available. It does a relatively good job of protecting against known data-mining, Trojans, dialers, malware, browser hijackers and tracking components. The only downside with the free version; real-time protection is not included.

ThreatFire 3

www.threatfire.com

ThreatFire 3 blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job. Again, this is one of the security applications that forms part of my front line defenses. I have found it to have high success rate at blocking mal-ware based on analysis of behavior. Highly recommend this one!

Comodo Firewall Pro

www.comodogroup.com

The definitive free firewall, Comodo Firewall protects your system by defeating hackers and restricting unauthorized programs from accessing the Internet. I have been using this application for 6 months and I continue to feel very secure. It resists being forcibly terminated and it works as well, or better, than any firewall I’ve paid for. This is one I highly recommend. Amazing that it’s free!

WinPatrol

www.winpatrol.com

Do you want to get a better understanding of what programs are being added to your computer? Then WinPatrol is the program for you. With WinPatrol, in your system tray, you can monitor system areas that are often changed by malicious programs. You can monitor your startup programs and services, cookies and current tasks. Should you need to, WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs. There are additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security applications.

Sandboxie

www.sandboxie.com

Surfing the Internet without using Sandboxie is, to me, like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. Deadly! This application creates a “Sandboxed” protected environment on your machine within which you browse the net. Data that is written to your hard drive is simply eliminated, (or not, your choice), when the sandbox is closed. Utilizing this application allows you to surf the web without the risk of infecting your system with mal-ware or other nasties. This is another security application I have been using for over 6 months and it has yet to let me down. Highly recommended.

Snoop Free Privacy Shield

www.snoopfree.com

Snoop Free Privacy Shield is a powerful application that guards your keyboard, screen and open windows from all spy software. I have been using this application for quite some time, and I have been amazed at the number of programs that have requested access to my keyboard and screen. Particularly, programs that I am in the process of installing. If you’re serious about privacy, this is a must have addition to your security toolbox.

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Filed under Anti-Keyloggers, Anti-Malware Tools, Application Vulnerabilities, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Internet Safety, internet scams, Online Safety, rootkits, Safe Surfing, Search Engines, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

The Best Freeware Startup Manager – AutoRuns for Windows

I’m always surprise to see the number of programs that ask for permission, on installation, to be allowed to run on system startup. I’m more surprised however, when the installation does not ask for permission and then runs in the background on system startup regardless.

So this begs the question. Are you aware of the programs that are configured to run when your system starts up or when you logon? No doubt, you’d be surprised to learn how many executables are launched automatically.

AutoRuns shows you the programs that are launched automatically including programs in your Startup Folder, Run, RunOnce, Shell Extensions, Toolbars, Browser Helper Objects, Winlogon Notifications, Auto-Start Services, Winsock Layered Service Providers and additional Registry Keys.

In many cases these programs and Auto-Start Services are superfluous to the operating of your computer, and eat scarce memory and system resources for no purpose. AutoRuns gives you the option of deleting the entry, verifying the entry, verifying the entry’s signature, jumping to the Registry Editor, opening the items Properties, or searching on-line for more information.

You can filter out Signed Microsoft Entries so that you can focus on third-party auto-starting programs. It will display the origin of the items, the order in which they launch and which items start every time or just occasionally.

AutoRuns works on all versions of Windows including 64-bit versions.

Download at: http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/

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Filed under Software, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools