Digital advertising is a rapidly growing industry that was worth more than $378 billion in 2020. As tends to be the case with lucrative sectors, cybercriminals have identified this as an area that can be exploited. With the rise of online advertising, so too has malvertising activity.
What is Malvertising?
Referred to as the Bogeyman of digital media, malvertising is a very real threat that internet users of all levels need to be aware of. The name is a portmanteau of malicious advertising and consists of hackers placing dangerous coding within advertisements. When users click on the ads, they often end up downloading harmful content such as viruses to their computers without even realizing it.
The threat of malvertising is something that site owners should be particularly aware of because it’s their responsibility to protect their users, it’s, therefore, advantageous for them to invest in ad quality protection platforms that ensure everything is above board. However, the end-user should also be wary, being attentive to signs of potential malvertising, and vigilant when navigating websites online. Digital advertisers and business owners need to do their part to keep people safe as well.
Increase in Malvertising Attacks in 2021
There was a major increase in malvertising attacks throughout 2021, which helped to raise awareness as to the magnitude of malvertising’s impact on businesses and end-users. The increase made the issue of malvertising more of a mainstream problem. Many internet users had been conscious of hackers and cyber-attacks, but they didn’t know that they could be targeted through advertising as well.
The most high-profile case in recent times involved 120 ad servers that were infiltrated in a targeted attack by a group of hackers. This was an ongoing campaign that lasted over the course of a year and managed to affect millions of devices.
It’s been noted that in order to organize such a coordinated attack, the hackers needed to have a significant amount of financial backing. This is because they had to pose as legitimate buyers and pay ad delivery services to display the ads. This story highlights how easy it can be for a scheme to snowball and infect a vast number of computers before people are able to stop it.
Be Careful When Clicking on Ads
Internet users need to be especially careful when clicking on ads nowadays because of the way that malvertising campaigns have advanced: they’re often subtle and difficult to identify. The best advice would be to only click on ads when visiting a reputable and trustworthy site, such as YouTube. If you are on a less secure site, it would be best to ignore any ads that may pop up.
Because of major stories in the news such as the coordinated attack that spilled over into the start of 2021, more people than ever are aware that they could be at risk when viewing adverts online. Site owners need to ensure that their users aren’t in danger by using state-of-the-art tools to combat this problem. End users should also be vigilant and only click on ads when visiting a reputable site.