Crooks may abuse search engine features to impersonate brands and redirect users to malicious sites hosting ransomware, the authorities claim.
The FBI issued a warning, advising users to be wary of cybercriminals using search engine ads to impersonate brands.
Like any other user, crooks can purchase ads that appear in internet search results. The trick is that malicious ads appear as the top search result and display recognizable brand names. Only a careful inspection of the ad allows spotting a fake pretending to be the real deal.
“When a user searches for that business or service, these advertisements appear at the very top of search results with minimum distinction between an advertisement and an actual search result,” the FBI warned.
Malicious ads are crafted to lead users to websites that imitate famous brands. For example, when users look for software, they may end up on a fraudulent website and inadvertently download malware.
“These advertisements have also been used to impersonate websites involved in finances, particularly cryptocurrency exchange platforms, “reads the warning.
The FBI advised users to inspect the URL before following the ad as malicious domain names often have typos and misplaced letters and show other inconsistencies.
Another way to protect oneself from fraudsters is to go directly to a service provider’s website, avoiding advertisements altogether. The authorities also proposed using ad-blocking extensions, available for most web browsers.
“Most internet browsers allow a user to add extensions, including extensions that block advertisements. These ad blockers can be turned on and off within a browser to permit advertisements on certain websites while blocking advertisements on others,” the FBI said.
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