Today I checked out the weather forecast at Weather.com, mostly to confirm my suspicions that yes, this winter is going to be eternal and that it’s never going to rise above four degrees for the rest of my life.
(Okay, the actual forecast wasn’t that bad, and it’s actually going to get a little warmer very soon, but still.)
I noticed this banner ad in the right-side column where Weather.com usually puts them (among other locations):
Looks important, don’it? Like your security software is telling you something is wrong, right?
Yeah, well, it’s not. It’s an advertisement. Good thing the ONLY indication is the little Google AdWords logo in the upper right corner, eh?
Now, I don’t know exactly what this advertisement leads to, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re using deception to trick people into clicking on it. That makes me think of ransomware, because it’s almost the exact technique used by makers of that type of malicious software. Click on it and you may find your computer locked down until you pay $80 or more to some crook.
I wish I could issue “just never click on anything” as a general rule, but it’s sort of hard to use the Internet without clicking on something now and then. I would suggest this, though: if you see an ad like this on a major website, click on that little triangle AdWords logo (click carefully…you don’t want to click on the ad itself!) and use the submission form to tell Google about it. Google’s AdWords system is great because it allows access to online advertising for businesses of all sizes, but that wide-openness also means a lot of scammers get their greasy little banner ads through. It’s like those “work at home” scans in the old print newspapers, only a couple hundred million times larger in scope.