Google News Alert Virus

 
Aug 12, 2008

by Judith Dinowitz, Master Editor-in-Chief

I like to keep up on the news. And of course, which tool helps me more than a Google News Alert? I'm sure many people feel the same way, and use Google News Alerts to keep up with the latest news, articles and blog posts on a given subject.

Well, the virus writers have now taken advantage of that trust.

Tonight I got an email with a Google News Alert. My first impulse was to click on the link and see what the article had to say. I clicked through, and came to a page on construction – how strange, I thought! Construction has nothing to do with the subject I saw in my news alert.

As soon as I hit the page, my browser was hijacked with a JavaScript popup saying that my computer was being scanned for viruses. It claimed that I had a virus, and needed to download some anti-viral software. The site was helpful enough to provide me with a download box, so I could save this anti-viral software. Of course, it had to be a virus. I closed all the windows, but I was puzzled: Why would Google be sending me to a virus site?

Michael and I decided to investigate. First, Michael used HomeSite (yes, HomeSite) to download the page and examine it. This led to a string of JavaScript jumps – from this page to another site, and then to another site. It also did not show the text that Google said was there.

Michael then turned JavaScript off on his browser (using the Web Developer Extension) and searched around for the text I was expecting. What he found was rather interesting. Someone had grabbed random chunks of text from different sites and, following the content optimization rules that Michael talks about on a regular basis, created a page which Google saw as being relevant and informative. Then all they had to do was put in a simple JavaScript trap and wait for Google to see the new content, with all those relevant and contextual keywords. Because the content is so attractive, and is on Blogspot, which is so prestigious, Google just has to send it off to people who are looking for those keywords. Basically, Google sent me (and many others) on a viral wild goose chase.

I have sent this to abuse@google.com, and hopefully they'll not only stop these people, but put in some sort of fix to make sure it doesn't happen again. Meanwhile, other people will get caught with this, and we'll have another rash of viruses coming along. Any time you go to a site that you get through a Google News Alert, remember that it's not a Google site. It is someone else's content and you should treat it like you do any other site that you go to. Don't automatically trust.


Judith Dinowitz is the Master Editor-in-Chief of the House of Fusion magazines and journals, where she enjoys serving up ColdFusion and Flex goodness on a weekly and quarterly basis.



Alison's Gravatar I have this same problem - anything that can be done other than to ignore google. Every time I try a google serach I am hijacked to a bogus site.
# Posted By Alison | 02-Sep-08 10:26 AM
?stanbul Cam Balkon's Gravatar One of my clients just got hit with this today. Great explanation.
# Posted By ?stanbul Cam Balkon | 25-Oct-08 09:34 AM
?├Âmine's Gravatar I have this same problem - anything that can be done other than to ignore google. Every time I try a google serach I am hijacked to a bogus site.
# Posted By ?├Âmine | 03-Dec-08 09:26 PM
Frank's Gravatar I have ran into these quite allot, in fact i just ran into one lsearching on google on what would cause a car to overheat. i clicked on the first link and my antivirus (avast) popped up a dialog box saying somethething was infected on the said site and i clicked on close connection. so far avast has kept me safe so far and has told me when anything was infected before it was even transfered to my HDD or if i am led to a site that injects you with a virus. i dont know about you all but i think google has been getting crappy.
# Posted By Frank | 16-Jan-09 02:13 AM
jason's Gravatar my neighbor is having the same problem. i looked around for local virus programs running on his pc and found none. i also disabled all the add-ons, but still it continues. More specifically: When i searched google, it brings back all the expected results. For my examples, I used utorrent and ebay as search strings. When i hover over the links in Internet Explorer (that google returned), I don't see anything on the status bar. And usually I would see the expected URL link. In Firefox, I DO see the link in the status bar (when I hover), but its an extremely long link and not what it should be. It's atleast a paragraph long and has IP addresses and other random site links that have nothing to do with the actual webpage (ie: ebay.com). this one stumped me cause usually i can find out if a separate program or add-on is causing it - but i haven't found one yet. i'm still not convinced its entirely google though, because there must be something targeting his pc and not mine. i can perform the same 'ebay' search and my links work, while his don't. so i still have some more digging around, hell, i even checked the hosts file to make sure there were no internal redirects happening. whatever is happening, its something i haven't seen before...and i've seen a LOT of weird $hit :p
# Posted By jason | 16-Jan-09 10:35 PM
jason's Gravatar oh, another thing i've noticed is when i click on the hyperlink from the google results page, another window is launched (when running IE). this separate window takes me to a completely different page that has nothing to do with the hyperlink. another observation: when i go directly to the site (hyperlink) by typing it in the address bar, it works. It's only through google that the second window pops up with IE and brings me to the random site. Some of the random sites include: edmunds, maxim, (some find-search sites) - i can't think of the rest. also - when you see the google results page, some of the links are cached or subset links. when i hover over these, it actually displays the correct link on the status bar, while the main links don't show anything. and when i click on those google cached pages, it brings me to the expected site. this behavior made me think a program was intercepting the main hyperlinks from the google search and substituted the fake links in its place - and didn't bother to do any replacing of the cached links. this obviously hasn't been confirmed since I haven't found the application/virus causing it - this was just my theory while investigating.
# Posted By jason | 16-Jan-09 10:41 PM
sc hanley's Gravatar when i click on my homepage it goes to google,postarticles.net, i can,t get this virus off of my pc,
# Posted By sc hanley | 14-Feb-09 08:58 AM
Rose's Gravatar So can we do anything to get rid of this or must google do the getting rid of this bug?
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Rose's Gravatar So can we do anything to get rid of this or must google do the getting rid of this bug?
# Posted By Rose | 28-Mar-09 02:24 AM
schreiber's Gravatar please help me, i heard that this is a virus that redirects you to a different website. is there any software that will remove this annoying thing. when at google the links i click on bring me to crap websites. =( help please
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jayne's Gravatar please help this is happening to me i have to copt and paste to get on any sites from google what can i do to stop this happening
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