Vulnerabilities / Threats
9/29/2009
06:32 PM
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Microsoft Bing Ads Warn About Scams

As part of its ongoing security push, Microsoft is teaming up with the government and Western Union to run search ads to educate users about potential online fraud.

In keeping with expanding efforts to educate consumers about security risks, Microsoft, in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission, the United States Postal Inspection Service and Western Union, has launched a series of online public service announcements (PSAs) on its Bing search engine to warn searchers about online scams.

The PSAs appear as sponsored ads atop Bing search results lists in response to keywords commonly targeted by scammers.

A search for "Microsoft Lottery," for example, returns a sponsored link at the top of the search results list titled "Advance Fee Fraud Scams," followed by the admonition, "Don't send money before verifying the source of the request."

The link leads to a Microsoft Web page that explains how advance fee fraud scams work.

Other keywords designed to trigger the PSAs -- such as "credit repair" and "mortgage foreclosure" -- lead to landing pages hosted by the FTC. However, these PSA links are intermingled with other sponsored links on Bing.com, making them less noticeable than the lone Microsoft ad triggered by the keywords "Microsoft Lottery."

"The campaign builds on similar information we recently began providing in Windows Live, all with the idea that by providing education within the product experience, consumers will be reminded to be cautious at the very moment it's most important," said Microsoft associate general counsel Tim Cranton, in a blog post. "Obviously, these particular issues are not the only scams or fraud consumers might come across online, but they certainly are some of the more prevalent scams out there. We see this campaign as a positive step in an ongoing effort to help make the Internet a safer place."

Microsoft has taken other steps in the same direction recently. Two weeks ago, Cranton announced a related effort to improve online security: the filing of five lawsuits aimed at curbing the spread of malicious online ads, or malvertising. And on Tuesday, Microsoft also released its own free antivirus software, Microsoft Security Essentials, in an effort to raise the security baseline of Windows systems.

Rohyt Belani, managing partner and co-founder of the Intrepidus Group, a security consultancy, said in a phone interview that organizations with large consumer bases have become more focused on educating consumers, partly in response to the FTC's "Red Flag Rule," which requires creditors and financial institutions to have identity theft prevention programs to detect and respond to activities that may be indicative of identity theft.


InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on smartphone security. Download the report here (registration required).

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