Recently, a malicious website has appeared on the Internet claiming to allow you to download drivers for AMD Radeon graphics cards. The story isn’t new, but it’s worth noting that users got to this page simply by clicking on the very first result of a Google search for “AMD driver”.
Of course, this link was not a Google SERP result. It was a standard ad unit that sat above the first result of the search results. The block labeled “Advertisement” is so subtle that it could fool a new, inexperienced AMD Radeon graphics card owner looking for drivers.
These text ads are not a new feature from Google, but their extremely discreet labeling about the promotional nature of the link and the style disguised as search results can confuse even the most seasoned web user, especially when they’re distracted or in a hurry. To make matters worse, these ad blocks change their position, which makes it difficult to identify them as advertising objects.
This inherently deceptive tactic is also nothing new in the world of malware. Hackers and scammers have always tried to gain access to computers and personal information through text ads.
While Google has long had the resources to better protect its users, the company has consistently and consciously empowered consumers to identify and avoid threats themselves. At the moment, the only way to remove malicious ads from search results is to report them to the support team, which is not always immediate. And Google isn’t the only search engine that works this way. The same issue was observed in Bing at the time of writing this article.
Unfortunately, based on past experience, this problem will keep us busy for many years to come. So don’t relax even as web browsers and antivirus software improve their security checks. Here are a few steps:
- Always check the URL of the link. This is the best way to make sure you’re going to the official website.
- Do not click on links marked as advertising. You will not fall for malicious fake ads if you do not click on any of the sponsored links.
- Report malicious links as soon as they appear. Google’s notification of broken links makes search results safer for everyone on the web.