Security firm Panda Labs has detected a worm which attempts to spoof Google. P2Load.A spreads via P2P networks using the file-sharing programs Shareaza and Imesh.
The worm copies 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 P2Load.A is run, it displays an error message informing the user that a file does not exist and offers it for download. The download modifies the user's start page, showing advertising and spoofing the identity of Google.
To do this, the worm modifies the HOSTS file on the computer so that when users try to access Google, they are redirected to a page hosted on a server in Germany that looks exactly the same as Google, but is not controlled by the search giant.
The page is an exact copy of Google and redirects users even if they make a mistake when entering the address - such as '', '' or '' - leaving users unaware 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 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," said Luis Corrons, director of Panda Labs.

"Its aims are to increase visits to the pages linked by the creator of this malware, or to 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."