Google goes to war against fake download buttons

Posted Feb 4, 2016 by James Walker
A common trick used by advertisers and scammers is to design fake software download buttons to display alongside websites with legitimate links. Google has announced it will start to protect users against these deceptive buttons with a Chrome update.
In a blog post, Google explained how it will now display warnings to users when a website behaves deceptively, either displaying fake buttons or pretending to be something it isn't. The vast majority of these deceptive website controls are displayed inside ad frames.
Usually, the buttons are labelled to say "Download now" or "Install." They are often found in the adverts of actual software vendor sites, confusing users looking for the real link with a clever design that tricks people into thinking it's a component of the webpage.
Other examples include banners styled to resemble operating system dialog boxes, such as the various Windows XP-themed "You've won an iPad" or "Media Player update required" alerts that can be found on several sites online.
This kind of deception annoys users and can be dangerous. The embedded content may link to malware or a phishing attack. The buttons are usually disguised well so an inexperienced user could easily be tricked into clicking on the big "Download" button instead of the smaller "Download file" link placed by the developer further down the page.
Google has decided to call time on the deceptive practice, banning it under its new policy of protecting users against social engineering attacks. The company said: "You may have encountered social engineering in a deceptive download button, or an image ad that falsely claims your system is out of date. Today, we're expanding Safe Browsing protection to protect you from such deceptive embedded content, like social engineering ads."
Sites that contain these prompts, alerts and buttons will now trigger an alert in Google Safe Browsing that will display a large red warning explaining that the site ahead contains content that could "trick you into doing something dangerous like installing software or revealing your personal information."
The news is likely to please Internet users who frequently visit websites that contain these annoying and potentially hazardous buttons. Navigating a sea of flashing "Download now" banners to find an actual link to a software package can be a challenge for even experienced Internet users and has become a more prominent problem in recent years.
Google is continuing to add new features to its Safe Browsing technology, expanding Chrome's protection to keep users safe from as many different threats as possible. Giving users a warning that a site may be dangerous at least keeps them alert, even if the banners themselves show no sign of giving up yet.