Using This Search Engine Is Riskier Now, Experts Warn

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Internet user on a laptop using a search engine for web search
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Criminals pushing several dangerous pieces of software are getting the better of Google, according to internet safety firm Spamhaus Technology.

The problem was noticed at the end of 2022, but Spamhaus saw a sharp increase in dangerous Google advertisements at the end of January.

These ads, which can appear alongside Google search results, look like they are for popular software programs but actually download malware to victims’ computers. Spamhaus explains:

“Numerous malware, including AuroraStealer, IcedID, Meta Stealer, RedLine Stealer, and Vidar are being delivered to victims’ machines through bad actors impersonating brands such as Adobe Reader, Gimp, Microsoft Teams, OBS, Slack, and Thunderbird using Google Ads.”

These so-called “stealer” viruses can grab personal and financial details from your web browser, various chat and password programs, and programs used to store cryptocurrency — and then deliver that information to criminals, who can go after your assets or sell off your stolen information.

Google, of course, doesn’t allow this abuse — but it’s struggling to keep up. Technology news site Ars Technica recently tried searching for specific programs on Google and was able to find a bunch of ads that led to dangerous imitators.

“Until Google regains its footing, people should be extremely cautious when searching Google, and likely other search sites, particularly for software downloads,” Ars Technica writes.

Following are the legitimate websites for software downloads mentioned by Spamhaus:

  • Adobe Reader — a free program used to view PDF format documents
  • GIMP — a free program used to make digital artwork and edit photos
  • Microsoft Teams — a free video chat and meeting program
  • OBS — or Open Broadcaster Software, free video recording and live-streaming software
  • Slack — a free professional chat and teamwork application
  • Thunderbird — a free email client alternative to Microsoft Outlook

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