One in Five Search Engine Topics Lead to Malware

Thursday, March 03, 2011



Barracuda Networks released findings from its 2010 Annual Security Report which indicates attackers are making a shift from using email spam to more aggressively targeting the Internet.

Email spam dropped by half during 2010, while search engine malware doubled and the Twitter Crime Rate increased 20 percent, signifying a concentrated focus on the more lucrative social networks and search engines as attack vectors.

“Attackers focus on where they can get the most eyeballs and profit, and today that means social networks and search engines. As a community we often point to the need for user education as the missing component; however, the levels of social engineering involved in today's attacks suggest that we must continue to elevate our technological approaches," said Barracuda Network's chief research officer Dr. Paul Judge.

"The research community must continue to build innovative defenses and the industry must make efforts to increase the deployment rates of those defenses."

Key highlights from the search result analysis include:

  • In June 2010, Google was crowned as “King” of malware, turning up more than twice the amount of malware as Bing, Twitter and Yahoo! combined when searches on popular trending topics were performed. As malware spread across the other search engines, the ratios were distributed more evenly by December 2010, with Google producing 38 percent of overall malware; Yahoo! at 30 percent; Bing at 24 percent and Twitter at eight percent.
  • The amount of malware found daily across the search engines increased 55 percent from 145.7 in June 2010 to 226.3 in December 2010.
  • One in five search topics lead to malware, while one in 1,000 search results lead to malware.
  • The top 10 terms used by malware distributors include the name of a Jersey Shore actress, the president, the NFL and credit score.

Barracuda also Labs analyzed more than 26 million Twitter accounts in order to measure and analyze account behavior. The analysis enabled researchers to model normal user behavior and identify features that are strong indicators of illegitimate account use.

Key highlights from the Twitter research include:

  • In general, activity continues to increase on Twitter: more users are coming online; True Twitter Users are tweeting more often, and even casual users are becoming more active. As users become more active, the malicious activity also increases.
  • The number of True Twitter Users increased to 43 percent, up from only 29 percent in June 2010.
  • For every 100 Twitter users, 39 have between one and nine followers, while 50 percent of Twitter users have more than 10 followers.
  • Approximately 79 percent of Twitter users tweet less than once per day.
  • After decreasing at the end of 2009, the Twitter Crime Rate increased 20 percent from the first half of 2010 to the second half of 2010, going from 1.6 percent to 2 percent.
  • Attackers are distributing malware and exploiting vulnerabilities to achieve their malicious goals.
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