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Security stories

Holiday 2009 Cyber-Watch List

Guess who’s coming for the holidays? Malicious search results.

Utilizing the dark art of search engine optimization, the Bad Guys have figured how to turn Google against you.

The scam is simple but devious. Whenever a new key word is popular on the web, crooks from around the world cook up web pages that quickly rise to the top of Google’s search results.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Miley Cyrus quitting Twitter, Google Wave going beta or rumors of Kayne West’s death. If something is in the news, someone is creating a web page for you to click on.

For instance, this April news of a “Twitter Worm” broke. Users who searched the term saw this:

See it? The fourth result down was a malicious link.

This link lead users to rogue sites designed to track their behavior and/or install Rogue AV or scareware—fake security software designed to get you to willingly offer your credit card information. "Sponsored links,” those paid links that appear at the right column of Google’s search results, have also led to infected sites. Scammers have even used "F-Secure" as bait in their scams.

Don’t let these scams get in the way of your good times. This year as online shopping gets bigger than ever you can be certain that malicious search result will show up for many if not all of the most popular gifts this season.

As the buying season heats up you should be on the lookout for suspicious links for these dangerously popular gifts:

Whether it’s the touch, the nano or the shuffle, everyone wants an iPod.

Playskool Chuck My Talking Truck
If Chuck turns into toy phenomenon of the season, scammers will be cashing in quicker than Chuck can say, “Watch out!”

Still hot as a toy and a virtual home gym, the Wii is as popular as ever. Be especially catious when you misspell the name of the item you’re looking for.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
The hottest game this season. Scammers know that moms and dads who aren’t super tech-savvy will be searching for this one.

Michael Jackson: This Is It
Within hours of The King of Pop’s death, the bad guys were using search results to infect machines around the world. The phenomenon returns with the “This Is It,” the movie and soundtracks. Click carefully.

Flip UltraHD Camcorder
Everybody wants an HD camcorder that fits in one hand, and this holiday season the Flip will be everywhere—even, possibly, in malicious search results.

How can you tell if a link is malicious?

Easy. Check the URL using F-Secure’s Browsing Protection.

You should also rely on ecommerce sites you trust and use the search inside the site for more reliable results.

Here are some more helpful tips on safe online shopping this holiday season.