As IT security and risk management professionals, it is important to stay informed about the latest cybersecurity threats. One growing threat that organizations should be aware of is fake ads. These deceptive advertisements can lead to malware infections or phishing attacks, compromising your organization’s sensitive data and information.
What are Fake Ads?
Fake ads are created by cybercriminals with the intent of impersonating a brand to steal revenue or sensitive information. Fake advertisements mimic popular brands by using their name, logo, and other brand assets on an ad, while redirecting the consumer to a fake domain. Ad platforms such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, and more, can all be vulnerable to fake ads.
Fake Google ads
Consumers usually don’t suspect that an advertisement at the top of Google Search is fraudulent. Google has some existing processes in place to try and prevent scammers from advertising on their platform. They may ask you to verify ownership of a business by providing details about business operations or upload documentation. (Source: Google Support) This won’t stop determined criminals from slipping through the cracks.
Fraudsters that bypass verification can easily and immediately start bidding on relevant industry/product/brand keywords and appear in Google SERP. Unknowing customers that click through the ad will then be redirected to a lookalike domain, where their payment credentials could be stolen or they could be purchasing counterfeit goods.
Fast growing startups and smaller companies are the most vulnerable to these attacks, compared to established organizations, such as Apple for example, who have trademarks that are easily recognized and flagged.
Learn more on our blog: How Scammers Use Google Ads to Target Brands & Customers
Fake social media ads
According to Federal Trade Commission research, scams on social media are skyrocketing year over year. There were 15.9k reports of scams that started on social media in 2020 Q2 alone.
Facebook and Instagram are prime hotspots for fake ads. Scammers will usually first create several fake profiles, “borrow” images from real brands, then start running targeted ads to scam unsuspecting users. Customers who buy from these ads oftentimes receive poor quality substitute goods, if anything at all.
Why are Fake Ads an Issue?
As the use of online platforms grows, fake ads have become a major concern for cybersecurity professionals. These malicious ads are designed to deceive users into downloading malware or providing sensitive information, making them a growing threat to online security.
The impact of fake ads on user security can be significant, as they often lead unsuspecting victims to unintentionally compromise their personal and professional data. This not only puts individuals at risk but also increases the likelihood of cyberattacks against organizations. As such, it is crucial for IT security and risk management professionals to remain vigilant in detecting and preventing these types of attacks.
The biggest risk of fake ads ultimately boils down to:
- Loss of consumer trust and damage to brand reputation
- Loss of revenue
- Security concerns – phishing/credential theft
The use of fake ads in cyber attacks
Fake ads are becoming increasingly popular among cyber criminals who intend to compromise user security. One of the ways hackers use fake ads is by embedding malicious codes in them, which can infect users’ devices when clicked on. This type of attack is known as malvertising and has become a common tactic for cybercriminals to distribute malware and ransomware.
The tools and techniques used by cyber criminals to create and distribute fake ads vary widely, but often involve the use of ad networks that display ads across multiple websites. Hackers may also use social engineering tactics such as phishing scams or enticing offers to lure users into clicking on these fake advertisements. For IT security professionals, it’s essential to stay vigilant against these types of attacks by implementing robust anti-malware solutions and training end-users about how they can protect themselves from online threats.
The impact of fake ads on user security
In today’s digital age, fake ads have become a serious threat to user security. Cyber attackers often use them as a tool to exploit user data and gain unauthorized access to systems. Users can easily fall prey to these scams by clicking on malicious links or downloading malware-infected files disguised as legitimate ads.
Attackers also take advantage of the personal information users unwittingly provide through fake ad campaigns. They can use this data for identity theft, financial fraud, and other malicious activities that put both individuals and businesses at risk.
Real-world examples of successful breaches via malicious advertisements include the “Malvertising” campaign in 2016 which affected major news sites such as Forbes and Huffington Post; resulting in millions of infected devices worldwide. Clearly, it is important for IT security professionals to stay vigilant against this growing threat of fake ads by implementing robust measures to detect and prevent fake ads from infiltrating their systems.
How Can I Prevent Fake Ads From Impacting my Organization?
If you notice your brand being targeted by fake ads, the best thing to do in the moment is to immediately report the ad on the respective platform.
- How to report Facebook scam ads: Support Page
- How to report Instagram scam ads: Support Page
- How to report fake Google Ads: Support Page
However, spotting and reporting individual ads may not be the most efficient and effective method. We recommend taking an automated and proactive approach to handle fake advertisements at scale.
To protect your organization from the growing threat of fake ads, it is important to implement effective network security measures. This includes regularly updating antivirus software and firewalls, monitoring for unusual traffic or activity on the network, and implementing access controls to restrict unauthorized users from accessing sensitive data.
In addition to technical measures, training employees on good cybersecurity practices is crucial in preventing fake ads from causing harm. This includes teaching them how to identify phishing emails and suspicious websites, as well as encouraging them to report any unusual activity or incidents immediately. By creating a culture of awareness and vigilance within your organization, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to fake ad scams.
Implementing network security measures
Firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, regular software updates and patches are essential measures to minimize cybersecurity risks. Firewalls act as a barrier between the external network and internal devices, while intrusion detection/prevention systems monitor for unusual activities. Regular patches help reduce vulnerabilities in software applications that hackers could exploit. Encryption of sensitive data both in transit and at rest is also crucial to protect against theft or interception by malicious actors. By implementing these network security measures, organizations can better safeguard their data from fake ads and other cyber threats.
Training employees on cybersecurity
In today’s digital age, it is crucial to train employees on cybersecurity to prevent potential threats like fake ads. Employees should be able to identify phishing emails and suspicious website links that may lead to malware or data breaches. Additionally, creating strong passwords and avoiding password reuse can make a significant impact on preventing cyber attacks.
It is also essential for employees to report any suspicious activity or incidents immediately. Timely reporting can help IT security professionals investigate and take necessary actions promptly. By providing regular training sessions and keeping employees informed of the latest cyber threats, businesses can strengthen their cybersecurity posture and protect themselves from potential risks posed by fake ads.
The power of automation in preventing fake ads
Ad-blocking software is an effective first line of defense for end-users against fake ads. However, companies must take additional measures to protect their devices and network from ad-related malware. Automated scans can help detect and remove any potential threats.
Using AI tools to detect patterns indicative of fraudulent ad networks has become increasingly important in preventing fake ads. These tools can quickly analyze data and identify suspicious activity, allowing companies to take action before a significant impact occurs.
- Ad-blocking software as a first line of defense for end-users
- Automated scans for ad-related malware on company devices
- Using AI tools to detect patterns indicative of fraudulent ad networks
Bolster helps its customers combat fraud by training its algorithms to spot fraud and brand impersonation all across the web and social media, then auto-submitting reports to domain registrars and social media platforms to get them taken down.
Learn more about our social media protection solution.
Our AI-powered platform monitors for registration of lookalike domains of your brand, like those used in fake ads, and provides continuous monitoring on multiple search engines for fake and lookalike scam ads for your brand.
Click here for a free report assessing your company’s typosquat threat landscape.