Malvertising: What Is It And Why Is It Surging?

A demonstration of an error message and spam pop ups on a fictional generic device & software program.
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A recent report by a cyber security company has revealed ‘malvertising’ is on the rise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before going into why this is occurring, it is important to clarify exactly what malvertising is.

As the name suggests, Malvertising isn’t dissimilar to advertising. But rather than trying to sell you a product or service, malvertising injects malicious code into legitimate online ads, with the aim of redirecting users to malicious websites.

It is a strategy used to spread malware – software written with the intent damaging devices and stealing data – among unsuspecting users.

And according to clean.io, the decline in brands advertising has led to more malicious activity online.

“With the pullback from brand advertisers in the ecosystem, we’ve seen a surge in malicious activity,” said clean.io CEO Matt Gillis.

“Lower CPMs and an increase in traffic have created the perfect storm for bad actors to disrupt end-user experiences and impair publisher monetization at a time when publishers can least afford further disruption.”

According to the clean.io data, the uptick in malvertising activity started around March 11 and proceeded to surge dramatically for the next 10 days.

And it seems no one is safe from the threat of being caught up in a malvertising attempt, with clean.io revealing creative from brands like Nike, Ford and Bose have all been used.

“Malvertisers are real advertisers,” said Gillis.

“However, their goals are a lot different than the traditional advertiser.

“We’ve seen an uptick in malicious activity over the last few weeks and an impressive array of brands that malvertisers have been using to create their deception and conduct their malicious attacks.”

There are also discrepancies in the browsers and platforms that are attracting the most malicious activity, the report finds.

“We’ve seen malicious ads coming through virtually every browser type over the last month, however, certain browsers have more malicious activity than others,” Gillis said.

“Users consuming web content within Facebook and Snapchat appear to have experienced the majority of the disruption over the last two weeks.

“Chrome Mobile has steadily surged throughout the course of the month. Microsoft’s Edge browser experienced an attack that lasted several days mid-month.”

 

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