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How do criminals use advertising for their malicious purposes?

hacking There are countless advertisers out there who understand how easy it can be to reach a wide audience using online ads. It has become one of the most cost-effective ways to get your message out to the masses. Unfortunately, for that very same reason, there are also criminals who try to take advantage of loopholes and weaknesses in the complex advertising ecosystem in order to make money and potentially create as much damage as possible. The sad reality is that not every ad you see online is a legitimate one, and it’s not always the fault of the publisher that these ads get out there but it damages the reputation of legitimate publishers, advertisers and ad servers. Let’s take a look at some ways in which criminals use ads to their benefit.

Malicious ads

One of the most common ways in which criminals use ads is to spread viruses, spyware and malware. Thus, the term malvertising was coined. The virus is embedded deep within the ad code and the chain of requests, making it difficult to detect. This is just one of the reasons why it is so important that everyone should have an antivirus software of some kind installed on their computer. The criminals always try to stay one step ahead, though, so it’s also important that your software is updated regularly so that malicious ads do not damage your system.

Pretending to be a valid advertiser

To get their malicious code into the system, the criminals often create fake companies and websites in order to pose as valid advertisers. Their ads might look like any other regular ads. However, when certain conditions are met, the malicious code payload is delivered instead of a valid ad. For some fraudulent ads, you might click on the ad link, land on a professional looking website, and pay your money for a fake product that you will never see. Worse yet, you may also have handed over your credit card or banking information to the criminals.

Fake traffic

In order to make money from ads, there needs to be people viewing and clicking on those ads. You may be surprised to learn that the internet is home to countless websites that are designed to do nothing more than pull in ad revenue. How, though, do these sites get found? The answer is quite simple, and it is that unscrupulous entities will buy traffic that directs unsuspecting surfers to those pages just for the purpose of seeing ads.

Ad stuffing

We have all landed on websites that we were drawn into by a clickbait style headline. Once there, you need to go through pages and pages of a story to get to the actual page that you wanted to see in the first place. Every page that you go through is stuffed full of ads, which may include invisible ones that run in the background. Even if you give up after a couple of pages, the criminals have generated a good number of fraudulent ad views.

Controlling and selling access to infected devices

When an infected ad delivers a virus, it might not cause any immediate damage but the virus is inside and activated. It monitors and takes control of your system in the background. When combining with other devices, it creates a botnet of many infected devices. Sometimes, the people who created that code will use that access for themselves, but oftentimes, they will act as a middleman and sell your infected device to a third party. Again, these are professional criminals running organized crimes so you need to be careful and protect your devices against these attacks at all times.
Posted in Ad Fraud by John Z January 07, 2020

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