Sneaky Malware Is Threatening User Trust in Digital Advertising

Malware buried in advertising is becoming a stubborn problem, and it is currently plaguing a number of mainstream sites.

Malware attacks can come from many directions. It is, however, possible to protect yourself by using a robust antivirus program and maintaining a healthy skepticism toward messages from unknown senders. Even still, malware buried in advertising remains a stubborn problem, and it’s currently causing issues for a number of mainstream sites.

Last week, Spotify users started encountering malware derived from ads served by the streaming site. Users across different operating systems encountered the problem, and Spotify was quick to respond, declaring the issue isolated.

A Spotify representative told The Next Web:

A small number of users have experienced a problem with questionable website popups in their default browsers as a result of an isolated issue with an ad on our free tier. We have now identified the source of the problem and have shut it down. We will continue to monitor the situation.

This isn’t the first time Spotify has dealt with malware, nor is it the first time a popular service has had to deal with this sort of attack. Last year, The Huffington Post was one of a number of sites that exposed millions of users to malware through its ad offerings, and according to MalwareHunterTeam, users of image hosting website Imgur were recently infected with ransomware.

Unless users have browser antivirus protection installed or are using ad blocking software, they are likely to be exposed to threats they can’t foresee. Given their frequency and impact, these malware campaigns seem easy to execute, and they spread widely in just a few days, before a site even has time to respond. Sites that serve ads need to institute tighter controls to properly protect users.

The challenge comes when there are several layers of third-party buyers involved, which makes it hard to root out the cause of problems like these. The use of ad-blocking services is becoming more frequent, and malware delivered through ads may be a motivating factor. Users should be able to trust the sites they visit to at least not serve them crippling viruses as they browse. Until this issue is solved en masse by content services and digital ad marketplaces, users will have yet another reason to opt out of advertising.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Publish date: October 11, 2016 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT