Google Alerts is a content change detection and notification service, offered by the search engine company Google. The service sends emails to the user when it finds new results, such as web pages, newspaper articles, blogs, or scientific research, that match the user’s search term.
Threat actors are using Google Alerts to promote a fake Adobe Flash Player updater that installs other unwanted programs on unsuspecting users’ computers.
The bad actors create fake stories with titles containing popular keywords that Google Search then indexes. Once indexed, Google Alerts will alert people who are following those keywords.
Upon clicking the fake stories using a Google redirect link, the visitor will be redirected to the threat actor’s malicious site (as shown below).
Example Google Alerts link for a fake story
After clicking the fake story’s URL directly, the website will state that the page does not exist.
Page does not exist when directly visiting the URL
Experts also observed fake stories being indexed by Google and pushed out by Google Alerts. These have been redirecting users to web pages pushing browser notification spam, unwanted extensions, or fake giveaways.
An Alleged Flash Updater is Offered
The most recent scam that states your Flash Player is outdated and then prompts you to install an updater.
Website stating Flash Player needs to be updated
Once Clicked the ‘Update’ button, the victim will download a setup.msi file that installs a potentially unwanted program called ‘One Updater.’ Even if “One Updater” is not malware, similar software in the past has installed password-stealing Trojans and cryptocurrency miners.
Experts state that if you are redirected to a website, through Google Alerts, Google Search, or any other means and are prompted to install an extension or program update, simply close the browser.
Installing these programs naturally leads to malicious activity or unwanted behavior that only benefits the application developers.