The subject of cyber-security does not get nearly enough attention. In the digital age, keeping our internet transactions safe and private should be a top priority yet most users have little to no idea about the dangers posed by malicious users and their tools.
One of the main problems with security in the digital world is that attacks can come in a multitude of different forms with no warning whatsoever. The WannaCry ransomware attack, for example, shocked quite a few people, particularly because hugely important services like the NHS were affected in a seemingly easy way.
Some forms of cyber-attacks are lesser-known than others. Malvertising – a portmanteau of malware and advertising – is one of them.
Malvertising is one of the trickiest forms of malware for a simple reason: users expect to see advertising in virtually every website that they visit. Furthermore, they can often attack computers without the user needing to actually click on anything; a simple visit to a website with an infestation is enough.
Even legitimate websites can sometimes be affected. While trusted places and organizations will often have strict quality control, malicious ads can sometimes slip through the cracks and create huge problems for those affected.
In fact, malvertising can often take advantage of the same things that standard web-based advertisers can, such as targeting their malware to specific people due to targeted campaigns.
Like it or not, advertising is often an essential part of a website’s revenue. Since content is delivered for free, website owners have to make up for all the costs associated with running that operation by various ways, the most popular of which is advertising.
On the same note, Internet users are now far more knowledgeable about ads that they had ever been in the past. A significant portion of users now defaults to ad-blocking services which tout a number of benefits apart from the obvious effect of blocking ads, including making websites faster and more responsive.
Another thing that they are now using to attract consumers is the fact that ads can contain malware. Adguard, an ad-blocking company, recently conducted a survey in which 57 percent of respondents confirmed that they had been victims of successful or attempted scams via online ads.
While far from a non-biased source, Adguard’s report is certainly in line with recent trends where everyday users are trying to become more informed as they are at the highest risk.
The concept of cyber-attacks being the work of masterminds who only target huge institutions in order to “hack” into their systems and drive off into the sunset with millions does not represent reality.
In truth, attackers are far more likely to target vulnerable and smaller targets like everyday users and small businesses. All of this might sound like fear-mongering with a dose of sentimentality but simple protective measures are often more than enough to combat would-be attackers and drilling this into users’ heads sometimes takes grant gestures.
As far as malvertising is concerned, blocking ads can indeed help. However, it should also be up to companies like Google to find new measures to protect end-users, particularly if they would prefer them not to use ad blockers.