PandaLabs has recently registered the appearance of a worm called P2Load.A. This malware specimen has adware functions and its main aim is to spoof the most widely-used Internet browser worldwide, Google.

P2Load.A spreads via P2P networks, or to be more precise, the P2P programs Shareaza and Imesh. It does this by copying itself to the shared directory of these programs as an executable file called Knights of the Old Republic 2, referring to a computer game related to the Star Wars saga. When it is run, it displays an error message informing the user that a file does not exist and offering to download it. If this happens, the computer has been infected and the worm makes two main modifications: it modifies the start page, showing advertising; and spoofs the identity of the Internet browser Google.

To do this, the worm modified the HOSTS file on the computer so that when users try to access Google, they are redirected to a page that is exactly the same as Google, but not controlled by the company, which is hosted in a server in Germany. The page is an exact copy of Google and supports both the 17 languages of Google and redirects users even if they make a mistake when entering the address, such as ‘’, ‘’ or ‘’, and therefore users are not aware of the change.

When users run a search, the results are shown correctly or with slight variations in the order in which they would be shown in Google. However, the sponsored links, which are usually shown at the top of the search results and correspond to companies that pay for this service, are different. For certain searches, other links appear which have been specified by the creator of this malware, resulting in increased traffic to these websites.

The fact that it modifies the HOSTS file by replacing the original with a file downloaded from a remote website instead of being included in the worm’s code means that it could spoof other popular websites by simply changing the content of the file downloaded and even use other phishing techniques against other websites.

“The creator of this worm has taken advantage of the importance of a company appearing among the first few links in the search results of an Internet browser,” explains Luis Corrons, director of PandaLabs. “Its aims are none other than to increase visits to the pages linked by the creator of this malware or earn an income from companies that want to appear in the first few results in computer where the identity of Google has been spoofed: in both cases, the motivation of the author of this malware is purely financial”.

PandaLabs has warned both the ISP hosting the page and Google in order to take measures and neutralize the attack.

To help as many users as possible scan and disinfect their systems, Panda Software offers its free, online anti-malware solution, Panda ActiveScan, which now also detects spyware, at Webmasters who would like to include ActiveScan on their websites can get the HTML code, free from

Panda Software also offers users Virus Alerts, an e-bulletin in English and Spanish that gives immediate warning of the emergence of potentially dangerous malicious code. To receive Virus Alerts just visit Panda Software’s website ( and complete the corresponding form.

For further information about these and other computer threats, visit Panda Software’s Encyclopedia.