Stopping the growing malvertising epidemic

Earlier this week, ITProPortal attending a roundtable event with internet security firm Malwarebytes, to discus the growing malware problem and, more specifically, the current malvertising trend.

Malvertising, for anyone unaware, involves spreading malware through online advertising. Malicious adverts are injected into legitimate advertising networks and webpages, investing the computers of users who view the adverts without them even knowing it.

According to a recent report by endpoint security specialist Invincea, malvertising is causing more than $1 billion (£640 million) worth of damage each year and this is expected to grow.

The problem, as CEO Marcin Kleczynski explained, is that it's just too damn easy for cyber criminals. The risk is relatively low as it's fairly easy now for people to remain anonymous online, the fast paced environment of online advertising means background checks aren't as in-depth as they should be and the pure volume of web traffic enables hackers to hit a huge amount of people in an incredibly short space of time.

Furthermore, the rise of programmatic advertising means that users can be directly targeted based upon their employer, job title or whatever metric is of most interest to the attackers. As Marcin grudgingly admitted, "it's an extremely efficient, cost effective delivery mechanism."

So, how can we stem the malvertising tide? From a consumer point of view, a change of mindset is needed. The whole 'antivirus is enough' thought process is no longer enough, so web users need to assume that at some point they are going to get infected and make sure adequate defenses are in place.

From the publisher and ad network side, it's all about trust. The majority of websites rely on advertising revenue to pay the bills, so they need to be able to trust where these adverts are coming from.

More severe background checks should be put in place and the barrier to entry increased. Lets start making it harder for the criminals from the beginning rather than living in fear of being attacked.

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