Security firms warn of iPad-related search poisoning

Web security

Security firms have warned consumers to be on the lookout for fake or malicious websites when searching for details of the new Apple iPad.

The iPad was launched to great fanfare on Wednesday in a flurry of media attention, but cyber criminals are reportedly trying to turn the massive public interest in the device to their advantage.

With terms like "Apple" and "iPad" both consistently among the most popular this week, Symantec says it has found clear evidence that scammers have been trying to subvert search engines to re-direct consumers to malicious websites, loading the sites with keyword-rich content to show up near the top of search results pages.

The security firm warned that there were any number of dangers lurking on such web pages, from phishing attacks trying to get consumers to hand over their personal details to offers of bogus security software that infected, rather than protected, their PC.

The launch of high-profile products such as the iPad poses a security risk that is very difficult to manage, with the combination of massive public interest and quickly changing quantities of information from huge numbers of different websites making it easier for cyber conmen to mask their activities.

In a blog post, Trend Micro highlighted the concern and warned consumers to think twice before clicking any link or downloading anything they didn't fully trust.

"Even before the first user could buy the latest and upcoming Apple technology, the iPad, cybercriminals are already making profit from its popularity," the company wrote, pulling out the fake anti-virus software FAKEAV is the worst offender when it came to poisoning iPad-related search results.

"Users are advised to be wary of malicious links and to instead go to reputable news sites to get the latest information about the iPad," it warned.

The threat isn't just confined to iPad-related searches, either: there have been several reports this week of online donations supposedly in the name of Haiti disaster relief being sent to conmen instead from fake sites.