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Internet Search Results May Lead to Tainted Links

The information below was published in the June 2012 edition of Inside Water Security, a publication of the WaterISAC. ASDWA encourages state drinking water programs to share this information with your peers and with your water systems.

“New research by Blue Coat Security Lab suggests that people are becoming more proficient at identifying and avoiding suspicious emails. As a result, cyber criminals are using a different technique, called search engine poisoning, in order to infect your computer with malware.

When searching the Internet, people are predisposed to select links that satisfy their query, and criminals are capitalizing. The research found that users encountered four times more attempted infections through search engine poisoning than through email.

Despite efforts by service providers like Google and Microsoft to respond to and remove malicious links, 26 million new examples of malicious software were detected last year, and the Anti-Phishing Working Group estimates 39% of the world’s computers are currently infected with malware. According to Chris Larson, chief malware expert at Blue Coat, infected links are “surfacing in search results for hundreds of mundane topics, such as recipes or sample letters.” To help protect yourself avoid websites that appear suspicious or end in country addresses like .ru or .cn.”