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Within hours of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, cyber-criminals had poisoned search results based on the disaster with malicious links.

Users searching on "most recent earthquake in Japan" may encounter some malicious links to fake anti-virus software, Trend Micro researchers said March 11. Malware writers used black-hat search engine manipulation techniques to push these links to the top of the search results, according to a post on the company’s Malware Blog.

"We immediately monitored for any active attacks as soon as news broke out, and true enough we saw Web pages inserted with key words related to the earthquake," Norman Ingal, a threat response engineer at Trend Micro, wrote.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the 8.9-magnitude earthquake, the strongest in the country’s history, hit the Pacific Ocean at around 2:46 p.m. local time March 11. The earthquake caused extensive damage in Sendai, the city on the country’s northeast coast that is nearest the epicenter, and triggered 20-foot-tall tsunamis and caused widespread fires all along the Japanese east coast. Other tsunamis triggered by the quake hit Hawaii and another is heading for the West Coast of the United States.

People are turning to the Web for the latest information and images from the earthquake and tsunamis. Cyber-criminals are taking advantage of the intense interest to further their own agenda.

"One of the active sites that we saw used the keyword ‘most recent earthquake in Japan’ and led to FAKEAV variants we currently detect as Mal_FakeAV-25," Ingal wrote.

For more, read the eWEEK article: Japan Earthquake News Already Hit by SEO Poisoning.