Page last updated at 15:27 GMT, Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Scareware launched from tech blog

Computer keyboard
40 million people have fallen victim to scareware in last year.

Visitors to technology blog Gizmodo are being warned that they could have picked up more than tips about the latest must-have gadget.

According to security firm Sophos, the website was delivering advertisements "laced with malware" last week.

A statement on the Gizmodo website admits that it was tricked into running Suzuki adverts which were in fact from hackers.

It follows a similar problem on the New York Times website.

Last month the New York Times' website was targeted by a gang of hackers who purchased ad space on the site by posing as internet telephone company, Vonage.

In both cases the adverts served up fake anti-virus software - known as scareware.

Scareware attempts to convince users that their computer is infected with viruses and trojans, and tricks them into downloading "remedies" which are harmful and can be used by criminals to get at information such as credit card details.

Really sorry

Gizmodo gets a huge amount of traffic with more than 3.1 million page views per day.

It has issued an apology to readers.

"I'm really sorry but we had some malware running on our site in ad boxes for a little while last week on Suzuki ads. They somehow fooled our ad sales team through an elaborate scam.

"It's taken care of now, and only a few people should have been affected, but this isn't something we take lightly as writers, editors and tech geeks," it said in a statement on its site.

Blaming the fact that staff used Linux operating systems on their production machines for "not noticing sooner", it advised concerned users to load some up-to-date antivirus software and "make sure your system is clean".

"By hitting one of the biggest blogs in the world, these hackers are aiming high," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos.

"What is particularly audacious about this plot is that the criminals appear to have posed as legitimate representatives of Suzuki in order to plant their dangerous code on Gizmodo's popular website," he added.

According to security firm Symantec more than 40 million people have fallen victim to scareware scams in the past 12 months.

The firm has identified 250 versions of scareware and estimated that criminals can earn more than £750,000 each a year via such scams.

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