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Malvertising Threats Grew 132% In 2016

I like keeping up to date on the latest industry reports, it’s a great way to stay on top of industry trends. The most recent report, however, has me a touch worried, or at least is forcing me to pay close attention. RiskIQ, a leading digital threat management company, has found that malvertising threats grew over 132% in 2016 when compared to 2015.

Malvertising is emerging as one of the most pervasive threats on the web. Malware and viruses can be delivered through popular ad networks on Facebook, Google, and other popular websites. Ransomware, malware, scams, attempts to get people to provide information on phishing pages, pages hosting exploit kits, there are so many threats that can be delivered through ads that it’s unsettling, to say the least.

Malvertising is a Big Revenue Threat

For websites, malvertising is an especially grave threat. If a user is infected by a virus from a website, even if it was from an ad served through another ad network, the website will take much of the blame. Advertising borne scams can ruin a website’s reputation as well the ad networks. Forbes, for example, has been slammed for offering up malware riddled ads.

Of course, we can’t forget about end users either.  Malvertising is turning what was once a benign, albeit in some cases annoying thing, online advertising, into something that’s dangerous. The World Wide Web is already fraught with dangers. Email phishing, compromised software, scam websites, and various other compromised assets can be a huge threat. Malvertising is only making the web more dangerous and less secure.

Compromised ads are also going to increase the risk of people resorting to ad blockers. As more people turn on ad blockers, more websites are going to struggle to produce revenues. Already, many news websites and other media sources are struggling to produce profits. If ad revenues continue to decline, subscriptions will become a must. In the long run, the blocking of ads is a fundamental threat to the free and open Internet.

One way to regain user trust, or at least tolerance of ads, is to reduce malicious code and other malvertising threats.

Let’s break down some of the key numbers:

  • There was a near 2000% increase in redirections to phishing pages
  • Over 130% increase in total malvertisements
  • A near 850% increase in scam detections
  • Over 25% increase in malicious distribution systems
  • Over 20% increase in antivirus binary injections
  • And a 58% increase in browser lockers and scareware

The key take away from the above numbers is that malvertising is not only a real threat, but also a growing one. With more and more people opting to use ad blockers, this means a smaller pool of people will be exposed to an increasingly hostile advertising environment.

Hopefully, Google and other ad networks can clean this problem up. For now, webmasters and others will have to remain vigilante. For now, it’s best for websites to stick to known ad networks, like Google AdSense. While malware can slip through, risks are reduced.

As for end users, the temptation to resort to ad blocking will always be strong, but remember, the open and free World Wide Web relies on ad revenues.

About Michael Boguslavskiy

Michael Boguslavskiy is a full-stack developer & online presence consultant based out of New York City. He's been offering freelance marketing & development services for over a decade. He currently manages Rapid Purple - and online webmaster resources center; and Media Explode - a full service marketing agency.

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