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