As we head into the festive season, online scammers are at peak business — but luckily, the FBI has stepped in and recommends using an ad blocker to stay safe.
In a recent public service announcement, the agency warned that false advertisements can appear at the top of search results, be indistinguishable from the results themselves, and be very convincing when passing off legitimate brands.
The FBI mentioned that the ads could pretend to be from cryptocurrency exchanges, and clicking on them could cause malware to be installed on your system, stealing sensitive data and ultimately your money.
Other recommendations from the agency include checking the URL before clicking a link, making sure it’s legit by looking for spelling mistakes, and typing the URL directly into your browser for the business you’re looking for instead of searching for it.
In advice to businesses, the FBI recommends using a domain protection service to be notified when similar domain names are registered and to notify customers of any impersonating websites.
Ad blockers mean what they say – they stop ads from appearing in your browser. The main benefit is stopping intrusive and long-loading ads, such as videos that get in your way and slow you down.
However, they also prevent these ads from tracking you, preventing big data collectors like Google and Facebook from discovering your browsing habits online, whether on desktop or mobile.
For that reason, the agency’s announcement is unlikely to please big tech companies, which appear to be walking a tightrope between trying to undo its use without disrupting the massive user base of such expansions.
Recently, the popular ad blocker uBlock Origin complained about upcoming API changes in Chrome that appear to prevent it and other ad blocking extensions in the Chromium browser from working. Browsers built on Chromium include Microsoft Edge and Opera.
Google also confirmed this summer that ad-blocking VPN apps for Android devices will no longer be available in the Play Store.