Malware via Google Images

My post today has nothing to do with geography so feel free to come back tomorrow if you like. Rather, I’m passing along something nefarious I ran across on Google Images as I was investigating someone hijacking one of the photos I display on my website. Take a look at this photograph:


Double Monument on Canada USA Border

He’s one of my distant relations, a dentist who practiced in Texas in the early Twentieth Century and an upstanding member of the community. He passed away in 1938.

So why, I wondered, was his photo suddenly being expropriated by all sorts of oddball websites? I move very swiftly against bandwidth thieves. Nonetheless I couldn’t get to this specific issue until the weekend because of other pressing concerns, and by that time the image had been hijacked hundreds of times. I switched the image this morning and that-should-be-that in a few days when Google rechecks the source code and refreshes its cache.

In this instance my tangential ancestor happened to have a name similar to a Canadian actor that I’d never heard of before I checked the Intertubes. I’m not repeating the names because I don’t want to give the scammer an easy way to hijack it again. Specifically, my guy’s middle name and surname matched the actor although his first name did not. Nonetheless, check Google Images for this actor’s name and my guy’s photo will appear along with several others (for now). They’ve obviously used Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques to push this photo onto the first page of a Google Image query. Pure evil.

Click on that image on Google and the website that is stealing my photograph will try to trick you into downloading malware as part of a fake virus scan, even if you’re looking at it as a preview. It will give you some sort of BS message about your computer being infected and if you respond you will deliver a nice little virus payload to yourself.

I generally use either a MacBook running the Camino browser or a Linux netbook running Firefox, so I feel pretty safe. I made doubly-sure by killing the application without clicking anything. These types of situation figured into my purchase of non-Microsoft operating systems and I will never go back to a PC.

My further research shows that these types of scams using "celebrity" photos on Google Images has become surprisingly common. I just wanted to pass that along in case you haven’t run across something like this before.

Be careful out there.


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