Mac Owners: Watch Out For This Google Ad Scam

  • MORE

By now, you know not to click on suspicious-looking links, but did you know there's malicious software lurking behind Google's AdWords links?

A newly discovered malware campaign targeted Mac users looking to download the Chrome web browser, but instead gave them a ton of adware that peppered their screens with spam.

shutterstock 281147924Image: Mon's Images / Shutterstock.com

This scam was discovered by researchers at Cylance, an Irvine, CA-based antivirus firm, which disclosed the feature to Google on October 25 and published the news yesterday (Nov. 1). Google removed the malicious ads, but it's important to know how the scam works, because there is serious potential for others to use this attack vector to spread more dangerous malware.

MORE: 12 Computer Security Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Users who used Google.com to search for 'google chrome' received a legitimate link to download the browser in their results, but the AdWords result at the top of the page didn't direct users to the "www.google.com/chrome/" address it displayed. Instead, it redirects macOS users through a series of websites before opening the page "googlechromelive[.]com" which offers a free download of Google Chrome.

fakeDo not click 'Free Download' on googlechromelive[.]com

Clicking on that download button sent Mac users through another series of web pages before their browser automatically downloaded a malware file named 'FLVPlayer.dmg.' Running the application inside of that DMG package opened a webpage for MacPurifier, a 'scareware' program that tells users their system is riddled with viruses and that they need to download more programs, that are likely also scams.

Running the FLCPlayer.dmg file also downloads an installer for FastPlayer, a media player program that fills your screen with ads.

What should you do?

  • First of all, always pay attention to the addresses of the sites you open. Just because a link or ad looked safe doesn't mean the content it sends you to is legitimate. Hovering your mouse over the link should reveal the destination.
  • If your Mac's screen is filled with ads and you're concerned that you've accidentally downloaded malware onto your system, download Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Mac, (or for PC), which is trustworthy and should eradicate those evil apps.
  • Any decent antivirus program should also fight off these malware threats, so here are our favorite options for Mac antivirus software.

Author Bio
Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey,
After graduating from Bard College a B.A. in Literature, Henry T. Casey worked in publishing and product development at Rizzoli and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, respectively. Henry joined Tom's Guide and LAPTOP having written for The Content Strategist, Tech Radar and Patek Philippe International Magazine. He divides his free time between going to live concerts, listening to too many podcasts, and mastering his cold brew coffee process. Content rules everything around him.
Henry T. Casey, on
Add a comment
1 comment
  • JuanSoto Says:

    Google is too busy manipulating and tweaking their algorithm in search, news and youtube for political favors to worry about the ignorant and easily manipulated masses.

    We're headed into a new age where any semblance of ethics by major tech companies has been cast aside for power in shady backroom deals.

    Time to give alternatives a try.

Back to top