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Malicious ads are on the rise and just as AdWords is an appealing platform for legitimate advertisers looking for a massive audience, Google's self-serve ad service is a juicy target for scammers looking for the same.

From ads that hawk scammy get-rich-quick products to ads that lead users to web pages infested with malware, malicious ads pose a significant threat to Google. After all, if users come to fear where Google's results (paid or unpaid) might lead them, Google risks losing one of its most valuable assets: the trust and confidence of its users.

As reported by AdAge, Google has been cracking down on the scammers behind these malicious ads by closing AdWords accounts associated with the suspect activity. And it has now upped the ante with swifter, bolder action:

Now, when Google finds an ad that it deems dishonest or a scam, it disables that account immediately and any similar accounts that it can connect to the perpetrator.

While Google will review requests from those who claim to be innocent, a Google spokesman told AdAge that the company has learned that most of the malicious account activity is intentional. Hence the less forgiving, one strike and you're out policy.

And what of those scammers who will simply sign up new accounts? According to AdAge, Google has developed "technology to determine who is connected to what account, which will make it very hard for a banned user to create another account". Obviously, I'm sure that Google's technology isn't perfect and the most motivated of scammers will probably find a way to circumvent it, but the message is clear: if you're a scammer looking to use AdWords to spread malicious ads, Google is going to try its best to make your life more difficult.

In my opinion, it's the right approach. After all, if Google can make itself a tougher target, the cost of targeting Google will increase for scammers. As the costs rise, the economics of using Google will become less favorable and more and more scammers -- especially the least sophisticated -- will go elsewhere.

The question, of course, is how well (and how quickly) Google can keep up with the scammers. The economics of online crime favors scammers. A single hacked computer could easily give scammers access to multiple financial accounts, and infected machines can be bought and sold to botnet operators for a pretty penny. The lengths to which scammers are willing to go to get their malicious ads in front of consumers hints at the money that can be made.

But even if the fight won't be easy, trying to shut down scammers is crucial to Google's relationship with its users and to its continued success going forward. Hopefully more companies in the online advertising space will follow suit because right now, offense and defense is sorely lacking in many places.

Photo credit: dannysullivan via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 18 November, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2392 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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clickitseo

If anybody is naive enough to believe that Google will get it right every time then they are sorely mistaken. Its a shame because when they do get it wrong they are messing with peoples livelihoods.

If they provide an appropriate appeal option (lets be honest their customer service is non-existent these days) then great, otherwise I worry for those who unfairly get banned and lose business as a result.

almost 7 years ago

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Neil the Sheffield Copywriter

clickitseo, Google won't get it right every time, but they need to take some kind of appropriate action. The alternative is that all their AdWords customers (both clickers and advertisers) will suffer. There might be a few unfair bannings as a result of this, but at least they have an appeals process.

Speaking personally, I already consider AdWords a little bit scruffy and something of a free-for-all. I hardly ever click on the ads. This kind of policy might do something to reverse that attitude.

almost 7 years ago

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Mike Stenger

Authenticity & giving a crap about your customers. It's a new age of business and new rules apply. Similar to the recent FTC changes, businesses will soon no longer be able to get away with all these deceptive practices. I agree with Neil, there will be times that Google messes up but in the long run it will benefit all who use the platforms.

almost 7 years ago

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hostedtel

If they offer one appropriate appeal choose Then big, otherwise afraiding and business of those people that I reach the unfairness that is forbidden fails.

almost 7 years ago

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Supra Skytop

Nice work guys!
this is just Amazing!
Thanks

almost 7 years ago

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handbag chooes

If anybody is naive enough to believe that Google will get it right every time then they are sorely mistaken. Its a shame because when they do get it wrong they are messing with peoples livelihoods.

almost 7 years ago

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