Microsoft's Bing search engine last week was serving to some users a fake Google Chrome download ad that may have included malicious content. After receiving user reports about the ad, Microsoft pulled it. But this may not be the first time Bing and Microsoft's Edge browser failed to block this kind of scammy Chrome-download ad.
Last week, developer Gabriel Landau (@GabrielLandau) tweeted that he downloaded the content from the fake ad on a brand-new Windows 10 laptop when attempting to install Chrome. He posted a video showing his steps in using Bing to attempt to download Chrome from one of the top Bing search results, which happened to be an ad which looked like it was a legitimate Google.com site.
As reported by HowToGeek.com, that ad was going to "googleonline2018.com," a scam website that looked to be serving up potentially malicious content. While Chrome blocked that particular site as being potentially deceptive, Bing and Edge did not, HowToGeek noted. This ad didn't show up every time on every system and possibly showed up in Edge only, according to their findings.
I asked Microsoft about Landau's tweet and video and received the following statement from a company spokesperson:
"Protecting customers from malicious content is a top priority and we have removed the ads from Bing and banned the associated account. We encourage users to continue to report this type of content so we can take appropriate action."
Microsoft has pulled the offending ad. Some Twitter and Reddit users are saying that this isn't the first time that Bing has served up similar fake Google Chrome download ads this year.
The Microsoft-Google rivalry makes this story seem especially damning, given that the first task many Windows 10 users do on a new laptop is use Edge to download the Chrome browser. This has led some to wonder aloud if Microsoft intentionally is not blocking these fake Chrome ads, hoping to give users another reason to stick with Edge.
All I can say to that theory, folks, is if Microsoft were half as organized and malicious as their actions sometimes make them seem, the company would still be known, with good reason, as "The Evil Empire." I chalk this one up to ineptness and a a serious failure to appropriately screen ads on Bing and Edge, rather than a new tactic to try to grow Edge's market share.
Brendan Eich, the co-founder of Mozilla and Firefox, tweeted earlier today that "search ad phising seems up across multiple engines," and pointed to one case where a user was phished using Google AdWords.