There are a lot of terrible, terrible things on the Internet and much of that garbage is related to or contained in ads. Malware, phishing links, scams, and other forms of badness all have strong connections to the online ad world, and new data from Google shows just how tight those ties are.
In 2015, the company blocked more than 780 million ads for various reasons. Some of the ads led to malware or phishing sites, some were misleading or outright false, and others tried to trick users into clicking on links they thought were legitimate. Those ads are key pieces of the fraud and underground economy and Google has been working to disrupt as much of that ecosystem as possible in the last couple of years in a variety of ways.
Part of that work involves blocking phishing sites and warning users about potentially malicious sites, But a less-visible part comprises removing or blocking malicious and fraudulent ads that can lead users down some of the darker alleys of the Internet.
Last year, Google blocked about 7,000 phishing sites.
“Some bad ads, like those for products that falsely claim to help with weight loss, mislead people. Others help fraudsters carry out scams, like those that lead to “phishing” sites that trick people into handing over personal information. Through a combination of computer algorithms and people at Google reviewing ads, we’re able to block the vast majority of these bad ads before they ever get shown,” Sridhar Ramaswamy, senior vice president of ads and commerce at Google, wrote in a blog post.
Last year, Google blocked about 7,000 phishing sites, Ramaswamy said. This is a particularly difficult task, even for a company with the resources of Google, as attackers put up and take down sites within hours and use complex systems of redirects to confuse researchers and victims. The company also has taken steps to find and remove ads from providers who flout Google’s rules, especially for ads in mobile apps.
“In 2015, we stopped showing ads on more than 25,000 mobile apps because the developers didn’t follow our policies. More than two-thirds of these violations were for practices like mobile ads placed very close to buttons, causing someone to accidentally click the ad,” Ramaswamy said
“There are also some sites and apps that we choose not to work with because they don’t follow our policies. We also reject applications from sites and mobile apps that want to show Google ads but don’t follow our policies. In 2015 alone, we rejected more than 1.4 million applications.”
Image from Flickr stream of Design Milk.