Report: “Malvertising” Went Up 132 Percent Since Last Year

January 31, 2017

9:15 am

Digital threat management service RiskIQ released a report just hours ago: Turns out we saw a “sharp spike” in malvertising last year. The term refers to any form of advertising delivered with a disingenuous intent, from scams to phising pages to downloadable malware.

Malvertising Went Up 132 Percent in 2016

James Pleger, threat researcher RiskIQ, outlined the extent of the problem in the company’s press release on their 2017 annual report, saying:

“Malvertising is so nefarious because it’s a direct attack on the lifeblood of the internet as we know it. Digital media marketing is what funds the ‘free’ websites we all know and enjoy online. The success of the internet and all the people that rely on it is inextricably linked to online advertising success and safety.

Publishers, ad platforms, and ad operations teams need active visibility, forensic information, and mitigation capability to enable them to effectively detect and respond to malicious ads in the wild.”

Different types of malvertising rose at different paces. The fastest rise were links that redirected to phising pages, websites designed to trick users into typing in their personal information. The percentage that phishing links rose in 2016? 1,978.9 percent.

Here’s What We Can Do About It

As malvertising grows, users will increasingly rely on adblockers, which block perfectly good ads along with the bad. The result is a massive decline in advertising dollars. By the end of this year, some estimates say, 86 million people will have ad blockers.

The question is, how can malvertising be combated? Tech.Co reached out to RiskIQ for a statement. Here’s Ian Cowger, security researcher at the company, on what the rise in malvertising means for organizations and advertisers:

“2016’s rise in malvertising incidents represents another blow to consumer confidence. Shown by recent studies by independent research firms such as eMarketer, the use of ad blockers continued to grow through 2016, and continues to siphon revenue out of the whole system. The problem isn’t isolated to one party—the problem affects every link in the ad delivery chain, and each link shares in the responsibility of rebuilding the end user’s confidence.

By scanning delivered ads, companies can remain vigilant of malvertising and evaluate if the product they are providing customers is doing harm to the user and the ad industry as a whole. Scanning technologies capture the sequences that lead to malvertising so partners can identify where the problem actually lies, such as a compromised web page leading to an exploit kit, and enables them to swiftly take action to shut it down by disabling that particular campaign.”

Can a renewed focus on defeating this newest iteration of malware stop revenues from entirely draining from the ad community? We’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, watch what you’re clicking on.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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