Google Images Hijack Malware

Do we still need to worry in the year 2017 about getting infected by malware through a picture we download?  You might recall that in May 2011 we heard news about thousands of Google Images being infected with poisonous malware.

The problem was not new, but back then the incidents of malicious image search results were increasing.

How does it work and what can you do about it?

These days such malware is unlikely to be contained in the image itself, although at one time that was possible.  When using Google Image Search, the malware back in 2011 was located on either a pop-up that appeared after clicking on the image, or on the website where one had to go to see the original image version.

When users clicked on an infected image on the website, their browser sent a request to the infected page, which then ran the hijacker’s script and redirected to a site trying to peddle fake anti-virus scare-ware. They wanted users to believe that they must download the program to avoid viruses.

The hope of such scammers was probably to get the user to use a credit card to buy the fake anti-virus software.

The bad news back in 2011 was that not all antivirus programs could stop that infection.

The good news was that given the media attention and the massive scale of sites that were compromised (one blogger estimated at least 15 million clicks on poisoned image search results every month!) Google took fast action to blacklist such sites.  Pity the poor webmaster who did not know his or her site was infected in the first place. Though Google did the right thing – better safe than sorry. But that was reactive action, not proactive prevention.

The concern these days is not the image itself, but that the image can be the conduit to send you to the website it is located on.  If a pop up appears asking for certain information and you oblige by responding, the pop up code itself can contain malicious code.

If you think your computer might be compromised while downloading an image, very quickly hit the  ‘stop load’ or ‘reset’ button on your browser and close your browser as fast as you can.  If you are lucky, you may be able to prevent the hijack from working.

General Malware Prevention Tips

  • Have anti-virus program installed
  • Use the most updated versions of software
  • Have real time scanning turned on
  • Adhere to image copyright requirements

If you have been infected, the best place to get removal advice is at the Webmaster Central Forum, and  select Malware & Hacked Sites in the discussion thread.

 Stay safe!  ~Jude


Comments 13

  • Hiya! I give you substantial thumbs up for your wonderful post. I am returning to your website for more soon. I’ve been here a few times already. Thanks!

  • How do you stay on top of spammers? I am having a hard time with my blog :(

  • Very happy to see your article. Thanks so much and i am taking a look forward to contact you. Will you kindly drop me a mail?
    My site is on Wedding planning.

  • Hi Ashlea,

    I appreciate your comments. Unfortunately the link to your site was not working, so I had to remove it.


  • Thanks for the info, it was helpful with a problem I am solving for a client now with images. Check out my computer repair service, thanks

  • Hi there! Quick question that’s totally off of topic. Do you know steps to make your site mobile helpful? My website seems weird when watching from my new iphone. I’m trying to find a theme or even plugin that might be in a position to fix this problem. In case you have any recommendations, remember to share. Appreciate it!

    • Have you tried WPTouch – A plugin which formats your site with a mobile theme for visitors on Apple iPhone / iPod touch, Google Android, Blackberry Storm and Torch, Palm Pre and other touch-based smartphones.


  • Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other writers. I’d prefer to use some with the content on my blog if you don’t mind. Naturally I’ll give you a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.

  • Good and also well written! I will revisit your site for sure!

  • Jude, hope you’ve got a second. I enjoy browsing your website, tons of great tips here. Are you a member of IMA? If not, I think your blog and skills would be a great addition to our collective. IMA is a community of internet marketers like yourself sharing knowledge on IM topics such as how to play Google for higher rankings and more visitors, and how to get more money from your internet marketing businesses. I really think you should sign up and consider joining long-term, your stuff already has great potential, after you sign up they give you some very nice IM tools for free that I’m sure you’ll be able to put to use right away. Thanks for reading, best wishes.

  • Hey Jude! Hope you have a minute. I noticed that you’re also a WordPress blogger, so I thought I’d share this with you. This is a 100{b836676211964b66ddb1a94012779accd2cb69eec60a63bc16d10fd7c8344bc8} free step-by-step guide to setting up a WordPress autoblog that makes money automatically, 24-7. I’m sure you could learn a thing or two from this eBook. If you’re interested, check out my link. It’s 100{b836676211964b66ddb1a94012779accd2cb69eec60a63bc16d10fd7c8344bc8} free and I guarantee it’s worth your time. Thanks.

    • Jay, I’m not a big fan of autoblogging when it comes to posting. However, I do appreciate automation to reduce management tasks, so I will check out your offer.

      But, I’m curious, why would you use a Blogger blogspot page to promote a WordPress Blogging tutorial?


  • Boyce, thanks for your feedback and link. I will check it out.


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