A Spooky Tale

The joys of laissez-faire: Theft You Don’t Even See [pdf]

How’s this for a one-two punch — software that secretly alters your Google search results, then tries to drop nasty programs on your computer by luring you to a bogus eBay link?

That appears to be what is happening with a new program documented by security software vendor Webroot Software Inc. Called 2search, the program secretly hijacks some Google searches by presenting fake results in the midst of legitimate ones. Because the pages shown look identical to regular Google results, most victims would have no clue anything is amiss.

[…] Spy software is going mainstream as it becomes big business, generating about $2.4 billion in annual revenue, according to a report issued last week by Webroot. Eager to make money by installing advertising and spy programs on more computers, the purveyors are using clever new tactics, such as pretending to be a Yahoo page or a music file from iTunes.

[…] If such standardized programs aren’t to your liking, a group of Russian programmers called Rat Systems will take your order at their site and write a custom spy program for about $600, Moll said. While spy software has legitimate uses such as defending a corporate network, Moll said it increasingly is being used for electronic robbery.