This morning I came across a particularly chilling article about websites that use malicious code to infect the computers of visitors to that site. These sites use computer coding and scripts to launch programmes, steal password information and otherwise wreak havoc with our computers. What was really frightening about the article was that it noted that Google recently discovered that one in 10 web pages had such ‘badware’ when it conducted a search of 4.5 million web pages. (‘Badware’ is the term for the malicious code.)
I can further attest to the proliferation of badware across the internet. Earlier this year, one of my websites was hacked – and brought to my attention by one of my clients! You can imagine my concern, embarrassment and anger at having my website hacked. An invisible iframe was installed on the homepage of my website. Once I was aware of the problem, I was able to remove it, change the passwords on my web server and relaunch a safer version of my site. So after some stress, a few swearwords and a short while later, I managed to end that potential hazard.
With the memory of that site hack still in my mind, I attended a presentation about the internet (in a lecture series sponsored by the Oxford Regional Liaison Office and the Said Business School, both at the University of Oxford). One of the presenters, Professor Jonathan Zittrain, who is also a founding member of Stopbadware.org, shed more light on the topic by highlighting the good work that organisation is doing to stop the spread of badware. A key move by Stopbadware was to get Google to liaise with them to notify users who do Google searches that a website does distribute badware. Since Google is the main search engine – this should be a major step in the right direction. That was comforting.
Incidentally, there was a posting on the Stopbadware website that showed that webhost provider iPowerWeb was hosting more than 10,000 badware sites! 10,000! That’s massive. Should I tell you that in years past (many years ago!), I used to host a few sites with iPowerWeb. Scary stuff indeed …