Why You Should Be Careful Clicking on “Sponsored” or “Ad” Links
Think clicking on ads is harmless? Think again. Every click could lead you one step closer to becoming a victim of cybercrime. At allesTEK, we provide technology solutions to a diverse range of clients with varying skill levels and from different industries. However, even the most tech-savvy users can fall prey to the dangers of clicking on sponsored or ad links that can lead to malicious websites. We have witnessed firsthand the hazardous consequences of such an action. While these links may appear harmless or even beneficial, they often serve as gateways to scams and malicious websites. It is more important than ever to understand the risks associated with these links and to learn ways to prevent falling victim to them in order to safeguard yourself and your computer.
Firstly, it’s crucial to understand that search engine results can be deceiving. Unfortunately, anyone can pay to have their website listed as a top result, even if it’s a malicious or scammy site. Furthermore, scammers may use deceptive tactics to make their ads appear to be something else entirely, such as a legitimate website or a helpful tool. For instance, a search for “Walmart” may display an ad as the first result, and it can be quite small and challenging to tell that it is an ad. Microsoft Bing search results are particularly notorious for making it challenging to differentiate between sponsored content and legitimate results.
When you click on that sponsored Walmart listing, chances are it will take you to Walmart’s website. However, in some cases (as seen in this example), the ad may take you to a different site, such as Walmart’s premium subscription site, to try and lead you to purchase their premium service. There is also a chance that it is a falsified ad that could lead to a webpage made to look like Microsoft’s website with a pop-up telling you your computer is infected and that to remove the virus you have to call a fake Windows Support number. If you were to call that number, the scammers would likely try to get you to pay for virus removal and scam you out of your money. Or they might want remote access to “help remove a virus” and use that as an opportunity to actually give your computer a virus or steal your data.
To avoid clicking on these harmful links, you can hover over them with your mouse before clicking to see where they will take you. This allows you to confirm that the link will take you to a safe and legitimate website before actually clicking on it.
It’s also important to pay close attention to news websites that may have sponsored content mixed in with their legitimate news stories. While sponsored content can be a legitimate form of advertising, it can also be used to spread misinformation or scam readers. Websites that aggregate news stories from multiple sources, such as Yahoo News, can be particularly vulnerable to displaying ads that are difficult to detect. This is especially concerning because users may be more likely to trust these types of websites and let their guard down, making them more susceptible to falling victim to scams or malware.
What can I do to keep myself from accidentally clicking on an ad?
Apart from always staying alert, you can install browser extensions like AdBlockPlus which can be a great way to prevent ads from appearing while you’re browsing. AdBlockPlus is a free, open-source extension that works with most popular browsers, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. Once installed, AdBlockPlus will automatically block ads from appearing on web pages, which can help you avoid accidentally clicking on malicious ads. Keep in mind that some websites rely on ads for revenue, so it may be worth considering whitelisting those sites if you want to support them. However, for most users, using an ad blocker can greatly reduce the risk of falling victim to malicious ads and scams online.
If you own a business, it is worth considering the implementation of a web filter that can be customized to block advertisements. This measure will safeguard your staff and company devices from malicious ads and security threats that may arise from clicking on unsafe links. By blocking ads at the network level, you can considerably reduce the chances of employees unintentionally clicking on harmful links, which may result in costly data breaches or malware infections. A web filter can also enhance employee productivity by eliminating distracting ads and ensuring they concentrate on their tasks while simultaneously reducing the temptation to visit inappropriate or time-wasting websites.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to protect your business from the dangers of malicious ads. Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive network security packages and how they can help keep your employees safe while also improving productivity. With our expert team and advanced web filtering technology, you can have peace of mind knowing that your network is secure and your business is protected. Let’s work together to keep your business safe from harmful ads and other security threats.