Cybersecurity Awareness: Malware and Fake Online Advertisements

Published: October 3, 2023

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. College of Western Idaho’s (CWI) Information Technology (IT) Department has some tips and information to help you protect yourself from malware and scams.

We all rely on Google for our daily searches, but it's important to be aware that not all ads on the platform are trustworthy. Bad actors take advantage of Google's advertising system to display fake ads that can contain harmful malware or lead to scam websites.

To stay safe, follow these steps:

  1. Install and regularly update anti-virus software on your computer.
  2. Enable an ad-blocker like AdBlock on your internet browser.

However, if you do come across a Google ad that interests you, here's how to determine its legitimacy:

  1. Instead of clicking on the ad's link, manually enter the website's URL into your browser's address bar.
    • For example, type instead of clicking the link.
  2. Hover your mouse over the ad's link to reveal the actual URL.
    • Scammers may disguise the link as a trustworthy site like or, but the underlying address could be a totally different URL and lead to a malicious website or malware download.

Additionally, be cautious when installing third-party extensions or applications. It's crucial to research and verify their credibility before clicking on any links or downloading.

Stay vigilant and protect yourself from fake ads and potential harm while surfing the web.

For those with questions or in need of more information, contact IT at or 208.562.3444. For those interested in learning more about cybersecurity or a career in this field, visit Cybersecurity's program page.

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