If you need another reason to be more careful online, try this: The FBI is warning people about a new shady tactic cybercriminals are using to trick people into accidentally downloading malware and how to protect themselves.
According to a PSA (opens in new tab) released last month by the FBI (spotted by the Linus Tech Tips Forums (opens in new tab)), some industrious bad actors buy advertising space on search engines and place deceptive ads with links to sites that “look identical to the fake company’s official web page”.
These ads usually appear at the top of the page, right above your search results, giving the links an appearance of legitimacy. Often they appear to anyone looking for a download link for a program or app.
To make matters worse, the FBI has noticed this tactic being used to impersonate websites related to finance and cryptocurrency, more specifically crypto exchange platforms. In the end, what happens is that these fake websites trick victims into trying to log in, thereby giving the cyber criminals access to their personal information and possibly their money.
One of the tips the FBI recommends is to use an adblocker extension when searching online for things that block the fake results. The tried and true internet safety tactics include checking the URL for spelling or typos and going directly to websites rather than using a search engine result.
The FBI also asks companies to educate their customers and users on how to avoid bogus sites and where to find legitimate software downloads, and to use “domain protection services to notify companies when similar domains are registered to prevent domain spoofing”.
This does not resolve the larger concern about how cybercriminals can easily buy up advertising space on search engines and flood you with fake and malicious ads. An ad blocker we like to use here is Ad block plus (opens in new tab). It is an easy-to-use Chrome extension whose free version blocks ads and website tracking.