Google Cleans Up Returns; Yahoo Not So Much

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2007-11-29 Print this article Print

Google and Microsoft Live have cleaned up malware-serving domains. But Yahoo is still crawling with it.

Google has cleaned up malware-serving domains that were turning up as highly ranked pages when searching for innocent terms, but as of Nov. 29 Yahoo was still crawling with it.

"I can find thousands of domains serving malware in a matter of seconds with very simple and legitimate searches," done through Yahoo search, Sunbelt Security researcher Francesco Benedini told eWEEK.
Sunbelt President Alex Eckelberry said that Google and Microsoft Live search both seem to have been cleaned up. But Yahoo only contacted Sunbelt to request a list of malware-serving domains on Nov. 29—a full four days after Sunbelt first discovered the infestation.
Sunbelt reported on Nov. 26 that malware, including malicious iFrames, rootkits and fake codecs, was being served up on tens of thousands of sites returned as results for searches on the three most popular search engines—Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Live—for such things as alternate router firmware or "how to for Microsoft Excel." The malware-serving sites are filtering traffic by country, Benedini said. In the United States, the sites are serving fake security applications or fake codec malware, whereas in Italy theyre serving exploits to install dialers and rootkit-based malware. For instance, on Nov. 29 Benedini searched for the word "giubbotto" (Italian for "jacket") in .info domains and found that nearly all of the sites returned by Yahoo redirect to malware. Click here to read more about a malware blitz served up through DoubleClick. Yahoo appears to have been hit less hard than Google in this most recent round of malware seeding. But that may be due to Google having more quickly indexed these particular malware domains, many of which were either Chinese or posing as Chinese domains, with .cn at their URL end. The recent .cn poisining was only targeted at Google; the results showed up in Yahoo and Live, but nothing would happen if users clicked on them, given that JavaScript code in the sites triggered a malware attack only if the visitor came in from a Google search. Many of the bad domains showing up in Yahoo results have actually been serving malware for some time, Benedini said. But headlines related to the bad .cn domains likely lit a fire under Google, he said, given how quickly the company cleaned up. "Google had more mess to clean up in the first place," Benedini said. "I dont recall Yahoo ever being particularly efficient in cleaning up results from bad domains; most of the ones I showed in the .info [top-level domain] are months old, and have been serving malware for months." Sunbelt contacted Google about the malware-seeding issue on Nov. 26 and talked to Microsoft about it as well; Eckelberry said that the company has been working closely with Microsoft security response engineers on the problem. Yahoo said in a statement that its "very serious about protecting its users from malicious sites on the Web." The statement concluded by saying: "Malware is an ongoing battle for all search engines and Yahoo has processes in place to quickly remove these sites from its index." Microsoft supplied a statement to the effect that it is aware of the issue, is working to rectify the situation and apologizes for the inconvenience. Google had not provided comment by the time this story posted. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEKs Security Watch blog.
Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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