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What is malvertising and why do you need to be careful?

Publishers need to be extremely careful, as these malicious ads can be highly detrimental to their reputation and earnings.

malware and ransomware being shown as a thief in an envelope
Image: LinkedIn

Malvertising is Big Business

Many people may not even be aware of this form of criminal activity online, but the malvertisement issues creeping into our lexicon and are a pertinent issue. According to GeoEdge, a trusted provider of ad verification, these malicious ads are among the most dreaded outcomes for publishers, as they can damage revenue as well as reputation.

In a nutshell, malvertising is when a cybercriminal intentionally delivers malware or harmful code through an advert placed on a publisher’s web page. It has been around since the days of digital marketing began, but it has recently become big business. This is thanks to the fact that online advertising is booming now, presenting hackers with a plethora of opportunities to introduce their malicious software to unsuspecting internet users.

The main problem with malvertising is that it is able to spread malware without having to have users click on the ads. Most people who have access to the internet have some kind of anti-virus software on their computers. This would usually come into effect when clicking on a suspicious link. As users can be infected simply by looking at ads, it means that publishers have to act as the last line of defence and are responsible for fighting against malvertising.  

Notoriously Hard to Combat

One of the main problems with malvertising is that it is known for being hard to combat and therefore requires sufficient security. A lot of the time, publishers remain blissfully unaware that there is anything wrong with the ads on their pages.

Cybercriminals are keen on this form of activity because it can move easily through legitimate websites without compromising them. It can spread unknowingly because a lot of the time it doesn’t require any interaction from the end-user. Indeed, the malware can spread onto people’s devices simply by their having looked at it.  

Small publishers are most at risk from malvertising. This is because the criminals behind the attacks are relying on the fact that these people won’t have the resources available to fully protect themselves. The main advice given to small publishers to ensure this doesn’t happen is to be vigilant and regularly monitor the ad supply chain. The only definitive way to ensure safety, though, is to have flawless QA automation in place.

Some people may not have even been aware that malvertising was a thing. But, unfortunately, it is becoming more of an issue as the digital advertising industry grows. Publishers need to be extremely careful, as these malicious ads can be highly detrimental to their reputation and earnings.

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