Recently I’ve noticed some questionable ads on both my and other websites, particularly on pages where you’d expect some download links: in places allocated for ads there appears a big green or blue “Download” button, but the download has nothing to do with the page content. The ad appears because of some specific keywords on the page and it’s deceiving visitors into downloading something that only looks like it’s coming from the same site.
Today I saw this fake download button first on my website (your humble deputycio.com) and then I saw it again when I went to, well, where else but to download the most recent version of KeePass on its official website.
Now, I’m already used to similar deceptive behavior on CNET’s download.com where you can regularly see a number of download buttons not related to the software you’re trying to get, but I’ve started recommending against using download.com quite a while ago because I’ve also detected crapware and malware packed in software downloaded from that site. I get my software, tools and utilities either from filehippo.com or from manufacturer’s website.
But unlike on download.com, these fake download buttons are not added by the site, but appear in ads instead. So far my site hosts no downloads, and the download links to something related to my post are usually textual links within the article and not accessible via a huge download button aside or below. The bigger the download button, the higher the chance it is fake, at least here, on this website.
Here’s the screen capture showing the ad I saw today (I scrambled the rest of the page, added the red frame around the ad, circled the download button in red and the little “AdChoices” triangle in blue, adding the arrows and the text warning):
Well, I won’t allow such things on my site. These download buttons should now be gone (unless there are more sneaky advertisers using similar tricks) because today I reviewed the ads that were displayed here and found and blocked several, including two different URLs, but I am 99% sure you will run into these out there on the web.
These fake download buttons always appear in the place designated for ads. My site so far has three such spaces, on the top and bottom of the left navigation menu and at the end of each post, below my name and copyright statement. Ads in any of these sections help me make a few bucks to support hosting this site, but they are not a part of my site and for now I have them configured for reviews after the fact, because so far there’s been only one occasion when I found an inappropriate ad and blocked it, the possibly deceiving overstock iPad offers.
Even if you don’t know where to expect the ads on a site, it is easy to distinguish these ads from real buttons because they often have the little triangular “AdChoices” arrow (AdChoices text visible on mouseover) on top right end (see picture, in the blue circle pointed at by the blue arrow). You can see that the ad on the picture is in its own separate square (I framed it in red for visibility) and it says something ambiguous as usual, like “Download now”, without stating what you’re downloading. Well, that’s not the download one would expect, so this thing flew off my website. I don’t care if this affects the number of my visitors or my quite laughable income from advertising. I value my visitors’ trust more than money.
Remember one rule out there when looking to download software and utilities: the bigger the download button, the greater the chance it is not the thing you are looking for.