"Today’s aggressive and spooky abuse of trusted giants reveals just how sophisticated and manipulative these guys have become. By following Google Trends, and with some sharp SEO skills to take advantage of Google’s famed real-time indexing, Scammers are directly targeting Google’s search results, trusted by as many as 70 percent of Internet searchers.
McAfee researcher Craig Schmugar points to the recent Gmail outage as an example. When that happened, many were searching for the cause or solution to the problem, and Schumagar shows how a malicious link copying verbatim the top news source text as a snippet, shows up fourth in the search rankings, following highly recognizable and trusted sources like Google News, Digg.com, and Mashable.
A subsequent link query found the domain linked to several other trending topics: Quiznos (a free sub giveaway promotion), Sharon Stone at the Oscars, Extreme Makeover foreclosure, Nicky Hilton, IHOP all you can eat pancakes promotion. All of them obviously target what the average searcher may be seeking.
That same malicious link—which led to a scareware prompt only if arriving via a search engine (gibberish if you just enter it into a browser, thereby masking the intent some)—was also found directly on the Google Trends page for Ash Wednesday, which was yesterday.
“I do not recall any previous attacks abusing Google Trends this aggressively,” said Schmugar. “The malicious links are being distributed across numerous sites, targeting many high-profile search terms, and the poisoned links are regularly appearing high up on Google results pages.”