Among the many threats that exist in the digital world, one particular form of cyber attack — malvertising — has emerged as a significant concern. This blog post is an overview of malvertising, providing a comprehensive understanding of what it is, how it works, and its various types.
What is malvertising?
Malvertising, a portmanteau of ‘malicious advertising,’ involves the use of online advertising to spread malware. Online advertisements serve as a conduit for cybercriminals to distribute malicious software without the user’s knowledge. This nefarious activity takes advantage of the trust between website owners and their visitors, and exploits the widespread reach of advertising networks.
How does malvertising work?
The process of malvertising begins when an attacker purchases ad space on a legitimate website. The advertisement, which is embedded with malicious code, is then served to unsuspecting users. Upon clicking the ad or even just loading the webpage, the malicious code gets executed, leading to the installation of malware on the user’s device. This can result in a variety of harmful outcomes, from data breaches to system damage.
Malvertising vs. ad malware
While both malvertising and ad malware involve the use of advertisements as a medium for spreading malware, there are distinct differences between the two. Ad malware refers to any type of malware that comes bundled with a software or application and gets installed when the user installs the said software or application. On the other hand, malvertising does not require any action from the user apart from visiting the infected webpage.
Types of malvertising
This type of malvertising involves embedding malicious code within an ad. When an unsuspecting user visits the webpage hosting the ad, the code gets automatically downloaded and executed, infecting the user’s device.
In this case, the malvertisement redirects the user to a malicious webpage upon clicking the ad. The malicious webpage can then exploit vulnerabilities on the user’s device to install malware.
This is a stealthy form of malvertising where a new browser window opens behind the current one. The user usually does not notice this until they close their browser, giving ample time for the malicious code to execute.
Here, certain keywords within the text of a webpage are hyperlinked to pop-up ads. When the mouse hovers over these keywords, the pop-up ad appears, and if clicked, it leads to a malicious website.
Malvertising: A serious threat in the digital world
Malvertising is a potent cybersecurity threat that capitalizes on the ubiquity and reach of online advertising. It poses significant risks to data security and system integrity, necessitating robust protective measures. By exploring its workings and different types, users and website owners can better safeguard themselves against this insidious form of cyber attack.