The fight against malvertising

Malvertising is a problem for everyone as it can directly impact the internet as people know it.

Most of the “free” sites people frequent today rely at least in part on funding coming from advertising revenue. Building and maintaining an attractive website is an expensive proposition which becomes increasing expensive as its popularity grows.

Without advertising revenue, many sites would not be able to continue in their current form and the internet would be a much different place; a much worse place.

>See also: Beware of the rise of malvertising

According to eMarketer, the worldwide paid media market recently hit half a trillion dollars, and where there’s money you’ll find people trying to take it. Malvertising is not new – the criminal element has been subverting the relationship between advertisers and website owners for years to get a piece of the action for themselves; either by diverting traffic for monetary gain or through spreading malware.

Today, malvertising growth mirrors the growth in digital media spend. RiskIQ, which scans more than two billion pages and nearly 20 million mobile apps per day to detect malvertising, recorded a 132% increase in incidents in 2016 over 2015.

Many users are reacting to the rise in malvertising by installing ad blockers to protect themselves. According to PageFair, 11% of the global internet population is using ad blockers today, a 30 per cent growth from 2015 to 2016. Because ad blockers block all ads, publishers don’t get paid.

>See also: Severe: the security risk to UK mobile app users

As ad blocker adoption grows, funding for legitimate web sites gets increasingly squeezed. According to a study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the cost to the U.S. digital marketing, advertising, and media industry alone is $8.2 billion annually.

As a tactic for distributing malware, malvertising is hard to beat. The increased sophistication of programmatic advertising technology has introduced powerful, highly accurate profiling capabilities which threat actors leverage across every link in the advertising delivery chain to target precise groups of users.

Those users are not the only losers here because malvertising transcends the entire delivery chain; publishers lose the trust of their user base, demand-side platforms get shut out of ad exchanges and brands waste their marketing budget and erode their brand equity.

>See also: Held to ransom: keeping your data out of the wrong hands

The fight against malvertising isn’t easy, but unless the ad industry works together to tackle this problem head-on, the web we’re familiar with today may cease to exist.

RiskIQ is working with many ad exchanges and publishers, scanning ads as they transverse the supply chain to identify and remove malicious ones before they reach users. But without participation by all the problem will continue to grow and ad blocker usage will increase. It’s in all our interests to make the internet a safer place.


Sourced by Fabian Libeau, technical director EMEA at RiskIQ


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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