Google Chrome and Firefox both throw up a malware warning for AOL’s Chinese portal (click at your own risk), and Google even warns people who run a search for ‘AOL China’ that the site may harm their computer, as you can tell from the screenshot above.
As far as I can tell, Internet Explorer 8 (with Protected Mode turned on), Bing and Yahoo Search don’t flag anything out of the ordinary with the website. Curiously, neither does AOL Search, which is powered by Google .
I continued to the site, which is located at both chinese.aol.com and cn.aol.com, and the warning message tells me the website is getting flagged because it contains elements from the site www.tq121.com.cn, which is said to appear to host malware. The URL www.tq121.com.cn earlier led me to weather.com.cn, but no warning messages pop up when visiting that site.
Digging a bit deeper, I found that the Safe Browsing Diagnostics page for chinese.aol.com reports the domain name tq121.com.cn to function as intermediary for distributing malware hosted at xzgfgh.8866.org. (Best not to visit any of those, obviously).
Looking at the Safe Browsing Diagnostics page for the latter URL turns up red flags for sited hosted on the network The Planet, a hosting company that is suffering from a couple of security issues of its own at the moment, as you can tell from similar warning messages appearing when visiting legacy domain domains.theplanet.com.
We’re sure that these are just pieces of a bigger puzzle, but it’s definitely worth reporting that a website owned by an Internet company the size of AOL appears to be used to distribute malware. And frankly, it’s worrying that Google and Firefox both raise warning flags while behemoths like Microsoft and Yahoo consider everything to be perfectly safe.
(Thanks for the tips, Michel Wester and Andrew Hartnett)