‘They’ are out to get you

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

Do you ever get the feeling that everyone’s out to get you?

Do you ever worry that “they” are watching your every move? That “they” will do whatever is necessary to find out every detail about your life?

If you have, congratulations: you’re a sensible, sane internet user.

It seems the dreaded “they” (in this case, assorted scammers, con artists and identity thieves) are invading every aspect of our online lives.

Not content with sending us dodgy emails, sneaking in the back door of our computers and scamming us on Facebook, they’ve also turned their nasty attention to search engines.

It’s not new that searching for anything via your favourite search engine will bring up the odd questionable result but what is new is the rate at which those questionable results are growing.

Search engine results poisoned with links to fake antivirus software are invading the good results and that gives those online attackers an easy way to infect your poor, unsuspecting computer.

According to Symantec’s Report on Rogue Security Software, the critters behind these toxic search results are typically scammers who use black hat search engine optimisation techniques to increase the ranking of their sites on search engines.

The problem is that these rogue antivirus programmes will often infect your computer with the very problem you were trying to avoid.

Google seems to be the main target of the scammers, most likely because it’s the main target for those searching online. Symantec reckons that on average, at any given hour, three out of the top 10 search trends contained at least one malicious URL within the first 70 results.

Scared yet? You should be.

Symantec’s report also says that on average: wOn average, 15 links out of the first 70 results were malicious for search terms that were found to be poisoned (had at least one malicious URL)wOn any given day, an average 7.3 per cent of links are malicious in the top 70 results for top search terms wThe most poisoned search term resulted in 68 per cent of links leading to malicious pages in the first 70 resultswAlmost all the malicious URLs redirect to a fake antivirus page.

Yes, the report is probably good advertising for the very product Symantec produces but it’s also a very good reminder to ensure you know exactly what it is you are downloading before you hit the OK button.

Be careful out there.


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