Malicious advertising, also referred to as “malvertising,” is a relatively new attack vector for cyber criminals that is quickly on the rise. With malvertising, fake malicious ads are delivered (often via advertising networks) to well-known websites as a way to reach millions of users at once on websites they normally trust.
Unlike typical spam or virus attacks, which rely on victims to click on a link in an email or accidentally download an infected program, malvertising attacks are presented on popular websites and can download malicious code directly onto a user’s computer when the victim views the compromised ad. By infiltrating an entire ad network, the criminal gains access to a broad number of syndicated websites that can spread malicious code even further.
Millions of users have been infected by malvertising threats recently, as evidenced by the high-profile attacks on The New York Times, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, WhitePages.com and other sites. Based on data generated from Dasient’s telemetry system, there are approximately 1.3 million malicious ads viewed per day.
Traditionally, many publishers and ad networks only respond to a bad ad when a user complains about the problem, and one complaint could mean thousands have been infected already by a malvertisement. To deal with the threat, publishers and ad networks have had to manually investigate reports of bad ads, which takes time and resources. Because attacks are sporadic, it makes the source of the bad ad very hard to pin down. To-date, publishers and ad networks have not had an automated solution to address the malvertising problem.
Dasient announced an anti-malvertising solution that automatically discovers and diagnoses malicious ads, limiting the exposure and severity of a malvertising attack. The solution:
1. Monitors ads from third-party ad networks and automatically identifies malicious advertisements coming into a website or network.
2. Immediately notifies the ad network partner or publisher that a malicious ad came through.
3. Identifies the exact source ad with an ad ID that needs to be shut down.
4. Traces all redirects the ad followed.
5. Captures a screenshot of the ad; and
6. Provides forensic information about the virus that was served for further investigation.