Millions duped in poisoned Google Image attack

Trend Micro finds a well-crafted poisoned SEO campaign has seen millions of users visit malicious pages.


A poisoned search engine optimisation (SEO) campaign has duped over 100 million web users into visiting malicious web pages, a security firm has warned.

The campaign, run by a well-known blackhat SEO operator, has used Google image search to redirect users to fake anti-virus downloads in a bid to compromise users' systems.

Advertisement - Article continues below

"In just one month, this campaign was able to redirect nearly 300 million hits from 113 million visitors to the malicious landing pages," Trend Micro explained in a blog post.

"In addition to generating pages full of bad links and keywords to boost search engine results ranking, the operator also embedded images taken from legitimate sites so its pages can get a high Google Image Search index."

To date, Trend Micro said it had identified 4,586 compromised servers connecting to the blackhat SEO command server.

Using these servers, the hackers have implanted two kinds of pages inside various websites, one being a standard fake anti-virus scanning page, the other a Traffic Direction System (TDS) page.

"TDS pages are used as landing pages to direct traffic to malicious content based on a variety of criteria such as OS, browser version, and geographic location," the security firm explained.

"This particular campaign uses the well-known SUTRA TDS to redirect users to [fake anti-virus] landing pages or to pages that host the Black Hole Exploit pack."

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

In the past 30 days, that TDS redirected 220,175,652 hits from 82,568,468 visitors.

This campaign targeted Mac users in particular by using landing pages designed to imitate the appearance of the Mac OS.

"This campaign again demonstrates how effective blackhat SEO techniques are in driving traffic to malicious websites," Trend Micro added.

"Despite low conversion rates in terms of exploitation and [fake anti-virus] downloads or purchases, this operation is still likely generating a considerable amount of money for its operators."

Featured Resources

Preparing for long-term remote working after COVID-19

Learn how to safely and securely enable your remote workforce

Download now

Cloud vs on-premise storage: What’s right for you?

Key considerations driving document storage decisions for businesses

Download now

Staying ahead of the game in the world of data

Create successful marketing campaigns by understanding your customers better

Download now

Transforming productivity

Solutions that facilitate work at full speed

Download now


web browser

Google Chrome 86 update could add 28% to your battery life

6 Jul 2020

Privacy groups warn against Google's acquisition of Fitbit

2 Jul 2020
Internet of Things (IoT)

Google makes Seasonal Savings free for all Nest owners

1 Jul 2020

University of California gets fleeced by hackers for $1.14 million

30 Jun 2020

Most Popular


How to find RAM speed, size and type

24 Jun 2020

The road to recovery

30 Jun 2020

The growing case for IT flexibility

30 Jun 2020