'Search engines should do more to fight malware'

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Mar 4, 2008

85% of users think that search engines should be doing more.

According to a recent poll, 85% of visitors to the VB website think that search engines should be doing more to fight malware, but experts say the matter is more complicated than that.

A recent paper by researchers at Google revealed that more than 1.3% of Google search results now contain at least one malware-serving website - a number that has quadrupled in the past nine months. Translated into actual searches this means that millions of people are being presented with links to malware-serving websites every day.

Randy Abrams, director of technical education at Eset, says that anything that search engine companies can do to prevent links to malicious websites from being displayed is beneficial, but warns that it is far from an easy task. He reminds us of last year's malware attack on the Miami Dolphins website just prior to the Super Bowl: "to block search results to that site," he says, "might have been perceived as a bad thing by many people."

Besides raising issues over freedom of speech, Abrams foresees another side effect of blocking sites: a new kind of DoS attack, where a website is infected with malware by a competitor or someone with a grudge, thus causing it to disappear from search engine results.

Martin Overton, an independent researcher and regular contributor to Virus Bulletin, agrees with VB poll respondents that search engines aren't doing enough. However, he points out that it is not easy to determine exactly what should be blocked from search results: "[Should you block] just malware, hacking tools and exploit code, or do you include porn, gambling, racial and religious abuse, and many other 'bad' things too?"

Tools such as SiteAdvisor and the others that warn about malicious or infected sites are probably a better idea, according to Overton, but he warns that they can be used as a crutch and are often used as a form of authorisation tool: "The user thinks 'If my toolbar/anti-malware says it is safe, then I'll trust it, and if I get infected, hacked or phished, then it isn't my fault.'"

So what's the answer? Abrams believes user education is important - and that blocking websites from search engine results might not be helpful: "[Blocking infected sites] does not educate people who desperately need to know more, and doesn't improve the security of software." Meanwhile, Overton suggests turning off all scripting and plugins in your browser, but says that this could cause problems with the functioning of many websites. "As with most things, he says, "minimising the risks will require a mix of technologies and education as well as good security policies and procedures - and a common-sense application of them all."

Google was not available for comment.

Posted on 03 March 2008 by Virus Bulletin

twitter.png
fb.png
linkedin.png
googleplus.png
reddit.png

 

Latest posts:

Mostly blocked, but still good enough: Necurs sending pump-and-dump spam

The Necurs botnet has started sending pump-and-dump spam. Almost all of these emails are blocked by spam filters, yet the stock price still increased.

Why the SHA-1 collision means you should stop using the algorithm

Realistically speaking, if your software or system uses the SHA-1 hashing algorithm, it is unlikely that it will be exploited in the foreseeable future. But it is also extremely difficult to be certain that your system won't be the exception.

VB2017 Call for Papers: frequently asked questions

The call for papers for VB2017, which takes place 4 to 6 October in Madrid, Spain, is currently open. We're always on the look out for new speakers and new content, so to help anyone who's unfamiliar with the VB conference, we've prepared a list of…

Throwback Thursday: Michelangelo - Graffiti Not Art

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the trigger date of the infamous Michelangelo virus. In January 1992, VB published an analysis of the boot sector virus that captured the imagination of the press and kicked up a media storm.

How are you defending your network? Come and tell us at VB2017!

Is it your job to defend your company’s network? Are you defending a government’s systems? Do you help secure the devices used by activists operating in less open societies? Do you work with abuse victims targeted by spyware? Share your experiences…