How to stay safe from malicious search ads


Almost every internet user uses a search engine one way or another. If it weren't for the search engines, you probably wouldn't be able to dive into millions of websites.

It is also not surprising that search engines are also the best way to distribute malware.

screenshot 2021 09 09 at 09 56 18 how to stay safe from malicious search advertisements

There are thousands of malicious websites among the billions of websites listed on Google, Bing and many other search engines.

No matter how strict the policies, malicious users are constantly creating websites that cheat automatically scans.

However, even if an attacker creates a website and ranks it in a search engine, it is difficult for it to gain a high reputation in search engines. Without it, an attacker will find it very difficult to attract visitors.

So attackers have a new way of promoting a malicious website through a search engine, through search ads .

Malicious Search Ads: How Do They Work?

Search ads ensure that a site gets the most views for a particular keyword.

Of course, visibility and effectiveness will also depend on the advertising budget, but the amount may not be a problem for the attackers.

In 2021, the attackers used Google pay-per-click ads  for distributing malware. The link led to a malicious ISO image disguised as the name of popular software packages such as Telegram, Dropbox, AnyDesk and others.

These ads often compete with legitimate business ads and have won them over in some cases.

Such a one-minute advertisement could entice thousands of visitors to download the malware. If the ad manages to stay in the search engines for a long time, it can affect hundreds of thousands of users.

Bing has been affected in the past by such unwanted and malicious listings.

How can they avoid detecting malicious ads?

With millions of ads, it is not possible to manually verify every listing. So ad companies automatically use malware scan tools to check if a site is safe or not.

No matter how advanced the tools are, there are several limitations.

For example, the size of an ISO malware is larger than 100 MB, so automated programs fail to scan for malware.

Any automated solution is ineffective in verifying the basic information about a site. It is also impossible to verify the legality of any web portal.

How to protect yourself from malicious ads?

As a visitor, you can not detect malicious advertising that aims to steal your personal information or cause you problems.

However, there are some pointers you can keep in mind to avoid interacting with the site or giving out your personal information after clicking the link:

  • Take a closer look at the page name (to see if it's the official site or fake)
  • Use filtering services DNS content to block known sites that are malicious
  • Is it asking you to download some software? (If yes, verify the authenticity of the software)
  • Does it promise something very good to be true?
  • Use security extensions to ensure maximum security

Advertising networks are making every effort to combat malicious advertising campaigns. However, attackers are constantly evolving with new strategies for distributing malware.

In the end

No matter what search engine you use, you should not trust ads that rank high in search results. And, if it's too good to be true, it should bother you.

Of course, as a general rule, you should not trust any unverified internet information. Even if it is displayed by Google or Microsoft.


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