Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Cybercrooks are exploiting security flaws in Google Image Search to try to frighten people into buying evil software.

If you’ve ever seen a flashing banner saying something like “CAUTION — YOUR COMPUTER IS AT RISK” then you are a click away from being led down the path of perdition.

According to the SANS Internet Storm Center (always worth checking when a friend sends you another shouty email telling you yet again that some new bug has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever) the villains have “compromised an unknown number of sites with malicious scripts that create Web pages filled with the top search terms from Google Trends.”

Click on an image, and there’s a possibility you’ll be routed to a page offering unverified anti-virus “scareware”, complete with misleading security alerts and warnings.

As far as we can tell, if you simply ignore the ads no harm will ensue. But of course we’re not experts, so we can’t be sure. Keep calm and shut your browser down. You can restart it straight away.

Apparently there are more than 5,000 hacked sites, injected on average with about 1,000 of these bogus pages. This means Google Images is referring about 15 million searches a month to these scam merchants — a mere drop in Google’s ocean, of course, but still a significant number.

There are free plug-ins available which will enable your browser to detect such evildoing. Check out Noscript for Firefox, and a chap called Denis Sinegubko is developing another Firefox plug-in that will flag malicious Google Image search results by placing a red box around images that appear to link to hostile sites, but I don’t think it’s ready yet.

Thanks to for alerting me to this.


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3 Responses to “Be Careful With Google Image Search”

  1. […] « Be Careful With Google Image Search […]

  2. Mike Mumford says:

    I use Google Images as a very good source of interesting free links. I have noticed in the last few years these images are being increasing used to catch your attention just to commercial advertising sites. This will affect the freedom of all individual’s to free image information. There are still lots of non-commercial image sites make wonderful source material. As individual copyright owners get more savvy by watermarking, commercial images have been tightened too.
    This will help all commercial image web sites like Fotolibra to establish their position in the image market. Google harvesting all images on the world wild web has total image power and responsibility to provide a quality image service, at its best a useful resource, at its worse a waste of time to most of its customers. The real power is in the image creator’s hands, keep it small, watermark and closedown viewing options. Tell the “Big boys” we need as much digital image protect as we can get. The “quality images”, have a right to full protection from day one, your private image is your private property. This should still apply digitally online too. All software providers and all digital applications will have to do this. There should be clear graded rules automatically applied The “Googles” of this world, who do not own your images, if they wish to borrow them to promote/use your image in a free-for-all, they should at the very lease by law have to protected each image by watermarking every borrowed image used by Google and the like?

  3. Alexander Boyle says:

    Many thanks for your latest on web site sales. I am no master photographer so need such a boost in confidence now and again.