Threat Intelligence Blog

Posted September 19, 2008

What is a “scad”? Scads are deceptive sponsored search results that usually appear at the top and along the side of a web page. Deceptive sponsored search results (scam ads or scads) happen when advertisers misrepresent themselves by using brand names they aren’t affiliated with or authorized to use. This unauthorized use of a well-known brand can lead to consumer confusion, lost brand equity or worse.

Studies have shown that the majority of online consumers, over 90%, do not recognize the difference between a paid search result and a natural search result. While most online advertising using another company’s trademark is fairly innocuous and may eventually lead a consumer to a corporate website, many divert traffic away from the intended location.

Some online ads even go beyond simple brand misuse to blatantly deceptive ad language and positioning. In some cases, the purpose of the scad is to commit identity theft. By positioning bogus, or easily compromised, reservation or purchase pages criminals can easily capture personal credentials for illegal use. Even more alarming is the presence of malware. It has begun to appear in the underlying URLs of some advertisers; the exact rate of malware presence is unknown.

Recently, Cyveillance gave official support to an organization focused on combating this form of bait-and-switch and educating consumers. The Alliance Against Bait and Click (AABC),, launched in late July 2008 with the purpose of educating the average consumer about scads and ways to combat them.
The AABC is comprised of a diverse group of leading experts, organizations, and companies working together to stop bait and click and to make deceptive sponsored search results a thing of the past. Currently, many of the member organizations come from the hospitality industry but is quickly expanding to others that are sensitive to this issue. If your company is interested in joining, watch for upcoming meetings on the subject.

Cyveillance has long been aware of these scams and continually educate our clients about this form of brand dilution and traffic diversion. For several years now Cyveillance has offered a Paid Placement Monitoring Solution to assist clients in identifying individuals or companies who bid on their trademarks and/or are using their brand without authorization.

For more information on Cyveillance or the AABC, please contact your Cyveillance Analyst or visit the AABC website at

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