Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Jackson: Google mistook search for attack

THE death last week of pop star Michael Jackson, shook search engine provider, Google, as they mistook the massive enquiries generated by the death for another attacks by malware writers, reports Charles Okoh.

The spike in searches related to Michael Jackson was so big that Google News initially mistook it for an automated attack.

As a result, for about 25 minutes last Friday, when some people searched Google News they saw a ‘We’re sorry page’ before finding the articles they were looking for.

This is as experts are warning users to brace for a flood of spam regarding the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett.

“Spammers and malware writers are now also expected to flood the internet with their own contributions,” according to experts, reports Phil Muncaster of Print Story Web.

The report also stated that Google admitted it thought the sudden spike in searches for Michael Jackson last Thursday was a massive, coordinated internet attack, leading it to post an error page on Google News.

In a blog posting, the firms director of product management, RJ Pittman, explained that search volume began to increase around 2pm PDT on Thursday and skyrocketed by 3pm, finally stabilising at around 8pm.

Many will be surprised that Google mistook a simple spike in traffic, albeit a massive one, for an automated attack.

In addition, Pittman said Google witnessed one of the largest mobile search spikes ever seen, with 5 of the top 20 searches about Jackson.

Google was not the only site caught out by the extraordinary events, even as the Los Angeles Times web site also crashed soon after it broke the news of Jackson’s death.

Twitters infamous Fail Whale’ was also called into action as servers at the micro-blogging site crashed as 66,000 Tweets were made within a 60-minute period.

The US Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT) has already begun to receive reports of spam and malicious e-mail attacks targeting the deaths of actress Fawcett and pop legend Jackson.

Shortly after news of Jackson’s death broke users flooded onto the web for more information. The resulting crush of traffic brought down popular web sites such as
Google and Twitter as users rushed to obtain and share information.

“Every time a disaster happens or news about some celebrity reaches the media, malware writers try to take advantage of it,” wrote McAfee researcher Guilherme Venere in a blog posting.

“Watch out for spam offering links to ‘news’ or ‘pictures’ of deceased celebrities.”

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