Software security firms believe they uncovered a massive hacker effort earlier this week to "booby-trap" web searches, one which could have rendered Windows and Internet Explorer users vulnerable to fraud. Seemingly innocuous and random search terms, like "Christmas gifts" and "infinity," brought results that included links thousands of malicious China-registered websites, built to fool search engine page rank algorithms.
"If your machine was not fully patched you were going to get hosed," said an executive whose company helped uncover the scam. The fraudulent sites were convincing enough to get past Google, Yahoo and MSN indexing software, but were specifically designed to prey on Google searchers; Google has since purged the sites from its index. One security firm's CTO suggested a Russian online criminal network was behind the effort.