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Cyber criminals turning to video ads to spread malware

Online display ads have been used as a means of delivering malware for years now and consumers have become aware of the risk that clicking on these often legitimate looking ads can have.

As a result of this, cyber criminals who are always looking for new and unsuspecting ways to distribute their attacks are turning to video based ads.

A recent example of a malicious video based ad occurred on 29 October when a pop-up window nicknamed “Tripbox” appeared on around 3,000 websites for 12 hours. This window led users to unintentionally open a backdoor to their systems by tricking them into believing that their web browsers needed to be updated. What made this attack stand out is that it was able to affect several high-trafficked websites on the Alexa 100.

One of the main appeals of video based ads to cyber criminals is that they are more difficult to check for quality and integrity as opposed to display ads. Video ads are usually delivered using the Digital Video Ad Serving Template or VAST which is a javascript wrapper. Malicious content such as tracking tags can be added into this template making it an appealing although expensive method of delivery for malware.

As video based ads become cheaper and a more appealing delivery method for cyber attacks, advertising agencies and other companies using these ads will have to be more vigilant and really scrutinise the content of the ads they are delivering to consumers.

Image source: Shutterstock/Pranch

Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.