Risk
7/31/2010
11:06 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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Be Careful What You Search For

Viruses and malware used to spread and try to find computer users to infect. Today, research released at DefCON 18, shows that increasingly search engines are bringing users are going straight to the malware.

Viruses and malware used to spread and try to find computer users to infect. Today, research released at DefCON 18, shows that increasingly search engines are bringing users are going straight to the malware.Tainting search results with malware isn't new, but few realize just how widespread the problem is. Researchers from security firm Barracuda Networks studied trending topics over two months from results at Bing, Google, Twitter and Yahoo!

The company says they reviewed more than 25,000 trending topics and roughly 5.5 million search results. A number of interesting results from the study included:

Google took the top hit when it came to malware distribution: turning up more than twice the amount of malware as Bing, Twitter and Yahoo! combined when searches on popular trending topics were performed. According to the study, Google presented 69 percent of malware; Yahoo! at 18 percent; Bing at 12 percent; and Twitter at one percent.

The average amount of time for a trending topic to appear on one of the major search engines after appearing on Twitter varies tremendously: 1.2 days for Google, 4.3 days for Bing, and 4.8 days for Yahoo!

More than half of the malware found was between the hours of 4:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. GMT.

The top 10 terms used by malware distributors include the name of a NFL player, three actresses, a Playboy Playmate and a college student who faked his way into Harvard.

The question is: if it's this easy for a security firm to find malware being spread by the various search engines, why can't the search engines do a better job of finding - and filtering - malicious results themselves?

A copy of Baracuda's report can be found at http://barracudalabs.com.

For my security and technology observations throughout the day, find me on Twitter.

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