Social media continues to dominate the digital era and remains an ever-present aspect of our lives. These always-growing communication, engagement, and commerce outlets are integral to online interactions and boast billions of users across all demographics. This makes them highly convenient, often necessary, and a ripe medium for cybercriminals to exploit.
Despite being surpassed by some younger social networks on the block, Facebook boasts a massive user base with over 3 billion active monthly users worldwide. With that widespread popularity should come great responsibility, but the platform has been plagued by a rising tide of fake advertisements containing malware and other cybersecurity threats. Here we’ll explore these ads, their risks, and the measures individuals and organizations can take to reduce potential security issues they cause.
Fake Facebook ads are a shining example of how cybercriminals have mastered the art of deception. The ads often appear extremely legitimate, which is critical for enticing users of all kinds. They exploit users’ trust within the platform to capitalize on the captivating nature of ads to drive clicks and interactions. These malicious creations often mimic well-known brands that users are familiar with or have clicked on previously while offering enticing deals or promotions to lure potential victims. Trust is established by imitating the design, imagery, and even language of genuine ads, and the trap is set.
These fake ads are popping up in almost every commonly used social media platform, but Facebook has continued to be particularly plagued by them. Many recent ads are impersonating now commonly used AI sites, such as ChatGPT, Google Bard, and Jasper. Since these services and sites are relatively new for consumers, they are an effective spoof for bad actors to utilize. A quick look at some examples of these ads shows how authentic they look, and it’s not difficult to imagine getting tricked into interacting with one.
Malware Remains Mighty
One of the primary purposes of these ads is to spread malware. This isn’t a new approach for cybercriminals – more of a refinement to adapt to existing trends and technologies. Malware dissemination is at the core of many cyber-scams, from bogus email links to other fake advertisements and websites. And the goal with the increased amount of recent phony Facebook ads remains the same as well – to trick victims into clicking on the link or ad. That click is often all it takes for the hidden malicious software to infect the user’s device. Once the device is infected, the objective is to access personal data that can be used for fraud.
Malware variants like ransomware, spyware, and trojans are often concealed within the ads, waiting behind flashy graphics and AI-generated copy for users to activate them unknowingly. Once they get to work, these threats can infiltrate a user’s system, steal sensitive information for future acts of fraud, and even demand ransoms in exchange for regaining control of their devices. Again, this isn’t necessarily anything new, but the trap of the fake ads using newer AI-based software companies as the bait reflects a new adaptation using tried and true tactics.
What You Can Do About It
To combat the prevalence of fake Facebook ads containing malware and other risks, developing a multi-pronged approach is critical.
- Educating yourself or others about the risks associated with clicking on ads from unverified sources is essential. Remember to stay skeptical to help better identify fake ads and not fall into traps.
- Facebook and other platforms employ ad verification, but scams still fall through the cracks. If you notice a suspect ad, report it to customer service immediately to help it get taken down.
- Users should still utilize comprehensive security software with features like anti-malware, anti-phishing, and ad-blockers. Regular updates should also be standard practice.
- Two-factor authentication will add another layer of security to your personal accounts. This can limit unauthorized access even if your login credentials are compromised through fake ad interactions.
- Always avoid clicking any suspect ads directly from Facebook or anywhere else. But if you navigate to a site you think is authentic, always inspect the URL to ensure it is authentic.
- Having identity theft restoration services in place will help you navigate the challenging process of dealing with a cybersecurity incident while allowing you to repair and restore things to normal.
LibertyID provides expert, full-service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.
*LibertyID defines an extended family as you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.