What is Malvertising and How to Protect Against It

Different types of cyberattacks are on the rise. The FBI reported 847,376 cybercrime cases in 2021, an increase of 7% from the previous year. This is why it’s imperative for technology-driven businesses to know what malware is and the various types of malware.

In this blog, we’ll discuss malvertising, a type of malware, and how to detect and prevent it.

What is Malvertising?

Malvertising, short for malicious advertising, is a type of cybercrime designed and spread to cause harm through infected ads. Usually, these ads appear to come from a legitimate source, hence trapping users into clicking or downloading malicious links.

Hackers initiating malvertising attacks purchase ad space from genuine ad networks. They inject malicious codes into seemingly harmless ads that hit victims’ systems. Did you know piracy sites make as much as $1.3 billion annually by malvertising?

How Does Malvertising Work?

So, how does malvertising work? Well, it’s a legitimate-looking ad that directs users to download a link or visit a website that’s home to malware like a computer worm or trojan virus

There’s another way to execute a malvertising attack: A  corrupted ad only has to load to harm any system, so users don’t even have to click or download any links. These kind of attacks are called drive-by downloads.

As you’ll see below, knowing how to stop malvertising is vital. We also suggest you read the ways to detect malware and prevent malware attacks. After all, businesses can’t afford to have their data exploited.

Example of Malvertising

One famous malvertising examples includes a campaign run on the world’s largest pornography platforms. It started in November 2020 until February 2021, when hackers created fake identities to publish ads and redirect users onto websites displaying fake spyware alerts.

Malvertising Vs. Adware

By now, you know what malvertising is, but do you know about adware?

Well, people often use these terms interchangeably as both of them work on ads. But they’re different. So, after understanding how malvertising works, let’s talk about the major difference between these two terms.

Malvertising involves publishing corrupt online ads that seem legitimate, whereas adware enters systems first and then displays ads with malicious links.

Usually, adware enters a system without the user’s consent and knowledge. In some cases, it’s paired with fileless malware, virus malware, or as a part of hybrid malware attack.

What are the Risks of Malvertising?

As per malvertising statistics, the damage caused by this malware attack is forecasted to cost $10.5 trillion by the end of 2025. This is possible as hackers succeed in tricking you into paying for tech support, software, or other fake solutions or by giving them sensitive information.

Here are two major risks you can face as a victim of this cyberattack.. Not to worry, as we’ll also show you how to stop malvertising below.  

Financial Losses

Threat actors use tricks to convince or manipulate you into divulging financial information or spending your hard-earned money. They could empty your account before you know it! 

Never submit or send crucial information to an unknown or unverified source. Double-check by calling your bank if any such request has been made to stop malvertising thieves in their tracks.

They can even steal your credit card password, and you might end up paying for plans not subscribed by you. Always check your credit card statements thoroughly to spot any  malvertisement scams.

Computer Infection

Cybercriminals design and spread malvertising capable of installing viruses, ransomware, spyware, and other malware on your device. They can inject malicious code to steal and intercept your confidential data. 

Use antivirus software for malvertising protection. It helps to detect and remove them completely from your system.

What are the Types of Malvertising?

Before discussing how to prevent malvertising, let’s just quickly go through its types.

Drive-by Downloads

In a drive-by download malvertising attack, a malicious program enters your system without your consent and realization. Basically, the  malvertisement is designed to infect a system when you load a webpage. You don’t even have to click a link or go to another website.

Click to Download

Most malvertising are of the ‘click to download’ type. So, unlike drive-by downloads, you have to interact with ads by clicking or downloading links. 

People fall prey to them as such ads appear to come from legitimate sources like shopping applications, online ticket-booking platforms, food-ordering applications, etc.

How to Spot Malvertising?

Educate your employees to look for the following signs of malvertising protection. Train them to identify and address these red flags to prevent malvertising attacks against your company.

  • Ads with spelling errors.
  • Ads appearing to be designed by non-experts.
  • Ads offering larger-than-life gifts. For example,c a free vacation or a big lottery. 
  • Ads redirecting you to an illegitimate website.
  • Ads that don’t match your typical browsing behavior.

How to Prevent Malvertising?

It’s a bit challenging to identify and mitigate malvertising attacks. However, you can follow the below-listed tips to train your employees on how to prevent malvertising.

Install Good Antivirus Software

Antivirus software can help in malvertising protection by constantly scanning for any traces of malware attacks. Their job isn’t limited to prevention; they’re capable of removing them as well.

Once installed, update your software frequently. Updates are made to expose new types of malware elements, including malvertising. So, you might miss a new security patch if you don’t update your antivirus promptly.

Turn on Click-To-Play on Browsers

By enabling this option on your browser, all online content requiring plugins to play (like Java and Adobe Reader) will seek manual permissions. This is an effective way to avoid getting trapped by the drive-by download malvertisement type.

Install an Ad-Blocker

You won’t accidentally click on a malicious ad if an ad-blocker is installed on your system. There are some free programs as well, but they might not block all ads. So, it’s best to opt for a paid one to ensure the best protection against malvertising attacks.

That said, ad-blockers might fail to block non-interactive or drive-by download ads.

Update your Software

Hackers often exploit systems with old versions of software as they have more breach opportunities and security loopholes. Updating software ensures that no security vulnerabilities are left exposed. This is one of the easiest options for malvertising protection.

Final Thoughts

Malvertising is a kind of malware that works through online ads. There are two types: drive-by downloads and click-to-download ads. You should look for ads with spelling and grammar errors, unbelievable promises, low-quality graphics, etc.

Install an ad-blocker and antivirus to stop malvertising. Also, regularly update all software programs so that hackers don’t find gateways to exploit. 


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