TechDogs-"A Comprehensive Guide On Malvertising"

IT Security

A Comprehensive Guide On Malvertising

By TechDogs

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Overview

Picture a big city called Cybertown, where everyone is on the internet. One day, a sneaky software named Mal decided to stir things up. He dressed up as a friendly online ad, promising cool deals and superb discounts. Naturally, the citizens of Cybertown clicked on it!

Little did they know that behind the flashy graphics and enticing deals, Mal was up to no good. As people innocently clicked away, this mischievous malware slipped into their devices, wreaking havoc by usurping personal information. Mal's seemingly harmless ad spread across the interconnected web - and the good guys had to quickly circulate an announcement about the term ‘Malvertising’ throughout the city. That's why we're here: to remind citizens to tread carefully in the online realm!

In this tech-driven world, where the digital streets can be just as dangerous as the physical ones, we need to stay vigilant and protect ourselves from the friendly-looking-but-malicious Malvertising. Read on as we discuss what Malvertising is, its history, how we can stay safe from it and the future!
TechDogs-"A Comprehensive Guide On Malvertising"-"The Clich-Or-Treat Of The Cyber World!"
Let’s get back to Cybertown.

As the citizens of Cybertown faced the challenge of Malvertising, they realized it wasn't just a one-time problem. Mal had friends—other sneaky software waiting to pounce on unsuspecting users. The defenders of the digital realm had to stay one step ahead, constantly updating their shields to block the tricky ads. People had to be super careful while clicking around the internet. It was like navigating a city full of hidden traps!

The defenders worked day and night to create digital barriers, shields for everyone's devices and networks. However, Mal and his gang were clever, always finding new ways to sneak in. The defenders of the city decided to spread the word about Malvertising, teaching everyone how to spot those tricky ads. They started campaigns, reminding folks to double-check before clicking and to keep their digital doors locked tight.

This story is not just about Cybertown, as the real world is also fighting against Malvertising. We need to make an effort to bring awareness to people and share ways to outsmart Mal and her gang.

So, doing what's needed, we’re pleased to welcome you to this blog raising awareness about
Malvertising. Read on and stay safe!
 

What Is Malvertising?


Malvertising refers to a malicious attack where attackers slip nasty code and malware into legitimate-looking online ads. These deceptive ads pop up unknowingly all over the internet, so the hidden malicious code can send people to harmful websites, putting their online safety at risk.

What's tricky about Malvertising is that it can be highly profitable for cybercriminals and hard to catch for cyber citizens. Most times people don't even notice it happening! The malicious code gets tucked into online ads that folks come across while they're surfing the web. The attackers even display these ads on legitimate websites to reach more people. (In case you’re wondering, TechDogs has secured their site and all the ads here are legit and real!)

There can be various ways Malvertising can harm you – be it Adware, Malware, Spyware or even a virus. However, one might ask – how did it all begin? After all, it is not like we have been witnessing these spooky ads forever. Let’s go back in time and understand the original story of this villain!

TechDogs-"What Is Malvertising?"-"A GIF From The Movie - Back To The Future"  

History Of Malvertising


The first ever recorded Malvertising attack occurred in 2007 which exploited the vulnerability of Adobe Flash. Along with Adobe Flash, other popular platforms including MySpace also witnessed the same attack. Ironically, that was the last time someone mentioned MySpace.

Later in 2009, The New York Times, the online magazine, fell into the trap of Malvertising. An ad that tricked readers, claiming their systems were infected, trying to trick them into installing malicious security software. Sneaky move!

It was the year 2010 when Malvertising went wild on the internet. The experts found billions of display ads packed with malware on 3,500 sites. Then, in 2011, Spotify got hit with an early form of Malvertising attack called a drive-by download. Those were some really tough times for online security!

In 2017, ZDNet revealed a major Malvertising scoop about Zirconium, a group of 28 fake ad agencies, that pulled off a massive campaign, displaying around one billion ads, each designed with malicious redirects. Users got sent to sites with identity scams or malware and as per the experts, this one campaign hit 62% of ad-loaded websites every week!

Today, Malvertising has become even more creative as cybercriminals are taking the help of abandoned domains to push fake ads. As the risk of Malvertising rises, it’s time to address the elephant in the room – how Malvertising works.
 

How Does Malvertising Work?


Apart from the malicious code, Malvertising can take place on the appearance of every day ads like pop-ups for browser updates, free utilities, antivirus products and so on. There are two ways these tricky ads can mess with your computer.

First, they might flash a tempting message, like a fake alert saying you've got a malware infection or offering a free product with a purchase. They're trying to lure you into clicking and if you fall for it, bam, you're infected!

The second method is even sneakier: called a drive-by download. You don't even have to click the ad! Just loading the web page hosting the ad can redirect you to a hidden page that takes advantage of any weak spots in your browser or software security. It's like a sneak attack on your computer without you even realizing it.

Malvertising is not just annoying ads. Cybercriminals can sneak in spyware through those ads, stealing your personal data. They might also trick you into entering your personal information on fake sites, leading to identity theft and data theft. Plus, infected ads can hit you with ransomware, locking your files and demanding money if you want them back. Some hackers just want to spread chaos and will use Malvertising to unleash viruses on your business systems.

TechDogs-"How Does Malvertising Work?"-"A GIF Of Displaying Text - Be Cautious When It's Too Good To Be True"
Now that we know how it works, let’s have a look at the types of Malvertising. #Scaryyyy
 

Types Of Malvertising


Malvertising is evolving every day, however, it can be segregated into three basic categories:
 
  • Rogue Security

    Beware of rogue security tactics! Those annoying pop-ups claiming your computer's compromised? They're just a trap. They push you to download a so-called "antivirus software" but guess what—it's loaded with malware.

  • Drive-By Downloads

    Then there's drive-by downloads – no clicking needed, as we explained. These sneaky ads sneak into your computer like a stealthy ninja, even without your action.

  • SEO Poisoning

    A cousin of Malvertising, SEO poisoning targets popular search terms on the internet and creates a fake website. The SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tactics help to show up on top of the engine but they are not real web pages.


So that is all the different ways Malvertising targets users. Since these ads are so tricky and real, how does one stay away from them? Let’s explore some recommendations!
 

How To Prevent Malvertising


Staying safe from Malvertising requires careful attention and robust security policies. Here are some possible steps to take in order to defend yourself against Malvertising:
 
  • Use Antivirus Solutions

    Install and regularly run a reputable antivirus program on your computer. Promptly approve antivirus software updates to stay protected against evolving Malvertising threats. Falling behind on updates can leave your computer vulnerable to specific forms of malware.

  • Use Ad Blocker

    Install an ad blocker to prevent malicious online ads from appearing on your screen. Some ad blockers may impact website functionality but you can customize settings to allow ads from specific sites. Choose a reliable ad blocker – whether it’s paid or free!

  • Use Password Manager

    Secure your data by using strong, unique passwords for each online account. Employ a password manager to create and securely store passwords, eliminating the need to ever click on any “Click Here To Log In” type of pop-ups that may actually be Malvertising.

  • Use Up-to-date Software

    Regularly update your devices, browsers and business software to patch vulnerabilities exploited by cybercriminals. Exploit kits target devices with outdated software, making it crucial to install updates immediately as it brings not only new features but also enhances security by closing existing vulnerabilities.

  • Enable Click-To-Play Plugins

    Disable or remove Flash and Java, known targets for Malvertising exploitation. Enable "click-to-play" plugins in your browser settings to prevent the automatic playing of Flash and Java advertisements. This extra precaution reduces the risk of infection by allowing you to control when these plugins run on web pages.


Despite being careful and implementing the best practices to stay safe from Malvertising, we know that Malvertising in the future will be starkly different and more scary. Hence, we need to prepare ourselves for the future of Malvertising. Scroll on!

TechDogs-"How To Prevent Malvertising"-"A GIF From The Movie - Back To The Future"  

Preparing For The Future Of Malvertising


As per the research by Malwarebytes Threat Intelligence, there have been over 800 Malvertising attacks alone in 2023, with an average of 5 attacks every day. Mind you that these are the ones that are reported officially. The number of people who have been victims of Malvertising unknowingly and not reported will be much higher.

While some Malvertising tactics may fade, attackers will continuously adapt, creating new ways to spread malware or compromise personal data. As they face increased scrutiny, attackers will become more subtle and come up with even psychological methods.

In today’s time, publishers can't afford to rely on outdated security measures. They will need to have strong and advanced ad security that proactively protects their audience. They will have to detect all the malicious activities in real-time while ensuring a smooth user experience. This will not only make their brand reliable but give a royal audience as well. As a publisher, it is high time to take control and secure their digital space.

Just like a coin has two sides, there will always be two sides to technology. Ads help us find new, exciting deals and products, while Malvertising uses those same ads to trick us. Stay safe, folks!
 

Final Word


Malvertising has become a new cyber threat that can target anyone on the internet. It’s important to take steps to protect yourself from it. Most importantly, there needs to be awareness about Malvertising and training the workforce to be aware while visiting new sites. Do not click on pop-ups in the first place and if you do, do not enter sensitive data you have been securing from everyone for years. Be aware, be safe and be-lieve in ads only if they are hosted on genuine websites and portals!

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Tags:

Malvertising Cybercriminals Malvertising Attacks Malware Malicious Ads Online Advertising Threat Intelligence Antivirus Software Ad Blockers Cybersecurity

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