As we enter the festive season, its peak trading time for online scammers – but luckily the FBI has waded in, recommending the use of ad blockers to keep safe.
In recent public service announcement, the agency warned that fake ads can be put at the top of search results, indistinguishable from the results themselves, and can be very convincing when impersonating legitimate brands.
The FBI mentioned that ads could be pretending to be from cryptocurrency exchanges, and clicking on them can result in malware being installed on your system, stealing sensitive data and ultimately your money.
Other recommendations from the agency include checking the URL before clicking on a link to make sure it is legitimate by looking out for spelling errors, and typing the web address directly into your browser of the business you are looking for rather than searching for it.
In its advice to business, the FBI recommended using domain protection services to be notified when similar domain names are registered and to inform customers of any imposter websites.
Ad blockers do what they say – they prevent adverts from appearing on your browser. There chief benefit is to stop intrusive and long-loading ads such as videos getting in your way and slowing you down.
However, they also prevent these ads from tracking you, stopping big data harvesters such as Google and Facebook from discovering your browsing habits while online, either on desktop or on mobile devices.
For this reason, the agency’s announcement is unlikely to please big tech, who seem to walking a tightrope between trying to nullify their use without upsetting the large user base of such extensions.
Recently, popular ad blocker uBlock Origin complained about the upcoming API changes in Chrome, which look set to prevent it and other ad blocking extensions in chromium browsers from working. Browsers built on chromium include Microsoft Edge and Opera.
Google also confirmed in the summer that VPN apps on Android devices that block advertisements will no longer be available on the Play store.