The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a public service announcement recommending that the public install ad blocker extensions to protect themselves from malicious actors and shadowy criminal organizations.
The advice comes at a difficult time for the bureau. The FBI currently finds itself implicated in a first amendment battle with Twitter and its billionaire owner Elon Musk.
Since early December Musk and his team have released internal Twitter documents which it calls “The Twitter Files.” Those files seem to demonstrate an uncomfortably close working relationship between the agency and Twitter’s previous management team.
Use blockers, says FBI
The FBI issued a statement on Wednesday, warning that cyber criminals are using search engine advertisements to impersonate brands and direct users to malicious sites. According to the FBI these sites host ransomware and can be used to steal login credentials and other financial information.
The FBI offers three mains strands of advice to combat this thread.
- Check the url before clicking on any advertisement. Malicious domains may be similar to a real domain, but won’t be a perfect match.
- Rather than use the search function, type the domain you require into the browser address bar.
- Use an ad-blocking extension when performing searches.
The FBI goes on to state, “These ad blockers can be turned on and off within a browser to permit advertisements on certain websites while blocking advertisements on others.”
That statement is certainly accurate, but once an ad blocker is installed on a browser, why switch it off again?
Ad revenues could be harmed
Whether users choose to use an ad blocker or not is down to individual preference. As a tactic for blocking malicious adverts, an ad blocker should certainly prove effective.
Ad blockers block all adverts, however, not just fake ads and ransomware attacks.
Blocking adverts could therefore prove to be damaging for certain types of businesses that rely on advertising revenues. For example, advertising amounts to 90% of Twitter’s revenue.
The FBI could inadvertently damage these revenue streams by calling on citizens to install ad blockers. On those grounds, Americans should ask themselves whether the FBI truly thought through the full consequences of this most recent “public service announcement.”