THE WORLD’S leading Internet search engine and web data giant, Google, has issued a security advisory urging Internet users not to access the Stabroek News website at stabroeknews.com.
According to Michael Jebbs, a security adviser at Google Inc, the company has launched an investigation into the operations of Stabroek News after receiving complaints from a U.S Internet Spyware watchdog and dozens of users in the United States alleging that Stabroek News has been installing spyware and malicious software onto the computers of visitors to their website.
As a result, Google conducted an automatic security investigation and malicious software test of Stabroek News’ website and allegedly found that it was indeed installing malicious content on visitors’ computers.
In the advisory which Google has now published on the Internet, the company says: “Of the 100 pages we tested on the Stabroek News website over the past 90 days, seven (7) pages resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. (Further) The last time Google visited this site was on 2010-06-25, and the last time suspicious content was found on the site was on 2010-06-25.”
Google also said it intended to completely remove the Stabroek News site from its search results if Stabroek News continues to fail follow-up security tests. The company reiterated that the onus is on the Guyanese authorities to investigate this development, in addition to determining how many computers locally might have been infected with the spyware.
Corporate Internet security giant and software security firm, McAfee, which produces the popular Norton Anti-Virus software suite, has also indicated that they are contemplating releasing an update that would protect over fifteen million users worldwide from accessing the Stabroek News website, out of security concerns.
The type of malicious software purportedly installed by the Stabroek News is believed to be capable of spying on users’ emails and opening up a back door that would allow ‘spybots’ to retrieve the user’s personal information, including credit card details and other content hosted on their computer hard drives.
When contacted by the Chronicle, Internet email lead firm, Yahoo! indicated that they would carry out a test on the site, and would provide a comment at a later stage.
Nonetheless, an Internet security expert with whom this newspaper spoke has indicated that the first step in correcting the problem is a directive by local authorities to temporarily close down the website in question and launch an investigation into the origin of the malicious software(s).
Speaking with this newspaper yesterday, Sunday Editor of the Stabroek News, Ms. Anna Benjamin said that her newspaper’s website was accidentally posted as having malware, and that users of the Mozilla Firefox Internet browser were receiving the notices with the warning.
She said that this was not the case with users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Benjamin said that the company’s IT personnel were in contact with Google, with a view to rectifying the problem.