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Google tackles scammers offering malware-laden ‘Bard’ tool

Google has revealed that it’s suing alleged scammers who are offering malware-laden “generative AI” software called Bard — the same name as Google’s own generative AI tool.

Google filed the lawsuit in a California court on Monday, accusing the Vietnam-based group of creating pages for social media sites — mainly Facebook — that include ads for “Bard” software.

The web giant’s suit says the defendants are “three individuals whose identities are unknown who claim to provide, among other things, ‘the latest version’ of Google Bard for download.” As Google points out in an online post announcing its action against the scammers, Bard is a freely available generative AI tool “that does not need to be downloaded.”

The suit also states that the alleged perpetrators “are not affiliated with Google in any way, though they pretend to be,” adding that they’ve used “Google trademarks, including Google, Google AI, and Bard to lure unsuspecting victims into downloading malware onto their computers.”

Before filing the lawsuit, the Mountain View, California company said that since April it has sent around 300 takedown notices to the group behind the fake Bard software, but to no avail.

It added that its lawsuit is seeking an order to stop the scammers from setting up such domains and wants to be able to disable them with U.S. domain registrars. It said that if the action is successful, it will “serve as a deterrent and provide a clear mechanism for preventing similar scams in the future.”

In its online post, Google said that scammers are increasingly taking advantage of unsuspecting users as public excitement in new generative AI tools increases. “Our first lawsuit targets bad actors who misled numerous people around the world looking to use Google’s AI tools into unknowingly downloading malware,” it said.

As generative AI has the ability to create natural-sounding text, cybercriminals have also been turning to it to create more convincing scams distributed via email or messaging apps. But Google’s predicament is a little different, with nefarious types exploiting the recent hype surrounding AI to roll out software purporting to offer the same features but actually containing little more than malware that can lead to all sorts of trouble for any unsuspecting individuals who install it.

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Trevor Mogg
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