Anyone who has a blog has probably seen blog spam; comments to the blog that simply try to entice people to go to some other site. Most of the time the site being advertised is simply trying to boost its search engine rankings to generate more ad revenue.
The more links there are to a site, the more popular the search engines figure it is, and the higher up in the search results it ends up. Blog spam, therefore, is frequently thought to be a good way to boost the search engine rankings. In some cases this turns malicious. Some sites engage in wholesale intellectual property theft to boost their rankings.
A few of weeks ago, however, I started noticing something far more insidious. I moderate all comments to my blog. This is something I started years ago to keep the blog somewhat family friendly, and to avoid propagating malicious content. Recently I also completely disabled trackbacks to avoid boosting the search engine rankings for sites that steal my work. This means I see every comment that comes into my blog. The other day I noticed one that contained nothing more than a link to a fake Google site: google-images.google-us.info/index.html.
This looked very suspicious to me so I made a note of it. Over the next several weeks I noticed a lot more of these, not only pointing to Google but also to Yahoo and MSN. The servers they pointed to all had the same basic structure, such as google-homepage.google-us.info, msn-us.info, yahoo-us.info, etc. Every one resolves to the same IP address: 188.8.131.52. That IP address is registered to Piradius.net in Singapore. The server appears to be hosted out of Kuala Lumpur. The domains, however, are registered in Ukraine:
Registrant Name: ermua Registrant Organization: santa banta Registrant Street1: lenina str. 43/67 Registrant City: Kiev Registrant State/Province: Registrant Postal Code: 0444 Registrant Country: RU Registrant Phone: 044.763238 Registrant Email: email@example.com
Domaintools.com confirms this. You will soon see a related domain, xpantivirus.com. That one is registered to Chebotarev Oleksandr, in Odessa, Ukraine. This had me very curious and I wanted to know more about what this site was attempting to achieve. Consequently, I fired up a virtual machine and started investigating. What I found was an interesting tale of trickery.