MALVERTISING MAKES ITS WAY TO MAJOR SITES
You’ve seen the ads that appear on the top or along the side of most websites. Most sites make the majority of their profits from selling this ad space. As long as the ads are legitimate, this is standard practice on the Web today and is part of what makes it possible for people to bring fresh, innovative content to the Web without having to charge big user fees for people who want to visit their sites.
Unfortunately, these ads aren’t always on the up-and-up. The problem isn’t with online advertising in principle—it’s with how some bad actors manipulate the system to take advantage of unsuspecting victims.
Malvertising on the Rise
If you’ve visited major sites like Huffington Post, AOL, or LA Weekly in the past few months, you may have been exposed to advertising with malicious intent—aka malvertising.
According to this story, these malicious advertisements “automatically redirect victims to other websites or pages that silently attack their computer and install malware.” Rather than being confined to illicit websites, malvertising is making its way to the mainstream now as cyber criminals look for new ways to target large numbers of computers simultaneously. Here’s how it works:
- A user clicks on what appears to be a legitimate advertisement.
- The user is then redirected several times before ending up on a page hosting “an exploit kit, an attack tool that scans for software vulnerabilities.”
- Once a vulnerability has been detected, the site automatically installs malware on the user’s computer.
Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that “in some cases, the user has to click on the ad to be infected with the malicious software. In other cases, simply having it appear in the browser is enough.” Even with vigilance and awareness, malvertising still poses a direct threat to users—regardless of whether you fall for the fake ads or not.
What You Can Do
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from malvertising:
- Make sure your web browser, browser plugins, and operating systems are up-to-date.
- Install and keep current trusted antivirus software—“even on a Mac”—to recognize and stop malware from installing.
Check out this article for more tips to help protect yourself and your loved ones against malvertising.