Wow, even the FBI is recommending people use adblockers to combat malicious search engine advertising

Hacker hacking away on a keyboard.
(Image credit: Getty images - Rapeepong Puttakumwong)

If you need another reason to be more careful online, try this: The FBI is warning people of a new shady tactic cyber criminals are using to trick people into accidentally downloading malware and how to protect themselves. 

According to a PSA released last month by the FBI (spotted by the Linus Tech Tips forums), some industrious bad actors are buying ad space on search engines and posting misleading advertisements with links to sites that look "identical to the impersonated business’s official webpage." 

These ads usually appear at the top of the page right above your search results, which gives the links an air of legitimacy.  Often they appear for anyone looking for a download link for a program or app.

To make matters worse, the FBI has noticed that this tactic is being used to impersonate websites involving finance and cryptocurrency, more specifically, crypto exchange platforms. What ends up happening is these fake websites dupe victims into attempting to log in, which gives the cybercriminals access to their personal info and potentially their funds. 

One of the tips the FBI recommends is using an ad blocker extension when searching for things online that will block out the bogus results. The tried and true internet safety tactics include checking the URL for misspellings or typos and going directly to websites instead of using a search engine result. 

The FBI is also asking businesses to educate its customers and users about how to avoid bogus sites and where to find legitimate downloads of software, and to use "domain protection services to notify businesses when similar domains are registered to prevent domain spoofing."

This doesn't address a bigger concern with how cybercriminals can easily buy up ad space on search engines and inundate you with bogus and harmful advertisements. An adblocker we like to use around here is Adblock Plus. It's an easy-to-use Chrome extension whose free version blocks ads and website tracking. 


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Jorge Jimenez
Hardware writer, Human Pop-Tart

Jorge is a hardware writer from the enchanted lands of New Jersey. When he's not filling the office with the smell of Pop-Tarts, he's reviewing all sorts of gaming hardware, from laptops with the latest mobile GPUs to gaming chairs with built-in back massagers. He's been covering games and tech for over ten years and has written for Dualshockers, WCCFtech, Tom's Guide, and a bunch of other places on the world wide web.