The “bad guys” constantly look for ways to trick users into giving up information or download malicious software that will steal information.  One of the easiest ways for them to do this is to get you to click on links that show up using a search engine.  Given the popularity of Google search, bad actors use a variety of methods to get their links at the top of a search result.

One of the most popular ways of doing this is to buy advertising using the most popular search words or phrases. Paid search results are guaranteed to be at the top of all search results so some of the paid sites and this provides an opportunity to embed malicious code to your PC when you visit the site.

See the image below. The first two results are paid Ads. (Google must disclose this)

Not all ads are bad – in fact, most are not.  However, since this is a way of getting you to click on a site (as most of us click on the first link), be careful.  If you don’t know the site is safe, you’re better off clicking on the first non-paid link.  In the image above, that would be 2020 Healthcare Trends and How to Prepare.

In Summary:

  1. Bad guys frequently use fake websites for popular topics or events
  2. Google puts paid ads at the top of all search results and bad guys know this
  3. Unless you know the site is good, avoid clicking on any sites that are paid ads

Google makes a lot of money off advertising so I’m sure they don’t like anyone recommending that consumers ignore all ads. But in this day and age, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Be safe. Be Secure.

To help spread the word about potential Google Ad scams, we’ve prepared a poster for distribution throughout your organization.