Hackers Exploit Google Bard Ads to Spread Malware


  • Hackers target Google Bard ads, using them to spread malware by tricking users with fake promotions that lead to infected sites.
  • Researchers find grammar errors and odd writing styles in the deceptive ads, warning users to be cautious when clicking on such ads.
  • The malware campaign poses a risk to private data, as users are redirected to a malicious site and encouraged to download a harmful file disguised as Google Drive storage.

In an era where trust in artificial intelligence is on the rise, a disturbing trend has emerged. Hackers are capitalizing on the public’s reliance on technology, utilizing ingenious tactics to disseminate malware and ensnare unsuspecting internet users. The recent focus of this malicious campaign is the Google Bard chatbot, a platform that has inadvertently become a gateway for cybercriminals to infect devices with harmful code.

Deceptive Ads conceal malicious intent

A growing concern has come to light regarding the vulnerability of Google Bard ads to exploitation. Cybersecurity researchers from ESET have uncovered a sophisticated scheme where hackers disguise their malware-laden ads as genuine Google Bard promotions. This tactic leverages the trust users place in recognized brands and their advertisements. However, the consequences are far from harmless. Once a user clicks on one of these seemingly legitimate ads, instead of being directed to an official Google page, they find themselves navigating to a web destination ridden with malware.

The telltale signs of infection

ESET researchers have meticulously scrutinized these rogue ads, revealing distinctive characteristics that betray their malevolent nature. These adverts exhibit glaring grammar and spelling errors, a clear departure from Google’s polished communication standards. Moreover, the writing style employed in these ads falls notably short of what one would expect from the technology giant. These anomalies serve as red flags for vigilant users who might otherwise be misled by the façade.

Dubious redirects raise concerns

One crucial element of this scheme is the redirection of users to a Dublin-based company’s webpage, rebrand.ly, instead of an official Google-hosted domain that would offer authentic information about the Bard chatbot. Security experts have sounded the alarm on the potential consequences of accessing such pages while logged into browser accounts. The risk of private data compromise is stark, as hackers could exploit vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to personal information.

Malware concealed as a trojan horse

The treacherous ads come equipped with a seemingly innocent download button, luring victims into downloading a file masquerading as personal Google Drive storage. However, this seemingly harmless download is, in fact, a confirmed malware known as GoogleAIUpdate.rar. The name might belie its malicious intent, but the implications of falling prey to this deception can be dire.

Ongoing and expansive cyberattack

Thomas Uhlemann, a researcher at ESET, reports that this malicious campaign maintains its momentum with various iterations. The breadth of this cyberattack is alarming, constituting one of the most significant threats of its kind. In some instances, hackers have even wielded fake ads showcasing meta AI or imitating different aspects of Google’s AI offerings, indicating the breadth of their deceptive strategies.

Competition and vulnerability

The targeted Google Bard chatbot holds a significant position in the competitive landscape, particularly as a rival to OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot. The latter has faced similar cyber threats, as evidenced by an incident in late February. Security researcher Dominic Alvieri identified a strain of info-stealing malware dubbed Redline, which exploited ChatGPT branding to lure users into accessing infected websites. Additionally, fake ChatGPT applications surfaced on various platforms, capable of delivering malware to unsuspecting users’ devices upon download.

A persistent battle

The prevalence of such cyberattacks underscores the uphill battle that technology companies face in safeguarding their platforms and users. OpenAI’s ChatGPT, in particular, has become a prime target for malicious actors, possibly due to its growing popularity and introduction of premium subscription tiers. Furthermore, cybercriminals have manipulated ChatGPT’s capabilities to generate malicious content, including text tailored for phishing emails and malware scripts.

As the digital landscape evolves, the imperative for robust cybersecurity measures becomes more pronounced. The exploitation of Google Bard ads serves as a stark reminder of the ever-looming threat of malware and the critical role that user awareness and protective actions play in maintaining a secure online environment.

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Randa Moses

Written by Randa Moses

Randa is a passionate blockchain consultant and researcher. Deeply engrossed with the transformative power of blockchain, she weaves data into fascinating true-to-life next generation businesses. Guided by a steadfast commitment to research and continual learning, she keeps herself updated with the latest trends and advancements in the marriage between blockchain and artificial intelligence spheres.