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What is malvertising?

Cyber Security

Before you can understand malvertising, it is important to understand the term malware. Malware is any software designed to cause damage to a computer, server, user, or network. Malvertising is when malware is incorporated into an online advertisement. It is typically found on web browsers and other internet connected programs that look like legitimate websites, which is why many people often get fooled. After clicking into a malvertisement, hackers can easily gain access to sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, credentials, and much more.

How does malvertising work?

Malvertising is click bait and extremely easy to fall victim to. Because it is often found on legitimate websites, people find the clickable ads very easy to trust. Malvertisments can come in the form of an infected ad which can sometimes be harmful just by clicking. Others must be downloaded and once they are, the malware can cause significant damage.

Cybercriminals obtain malvertising simply by purchasing an ad space from an advertising network and embedding the ad with a malicious code. Some legitimate sites will run these ads believing that they are verified which is how they gain such a large platform to promote themselves. Some of the malvertisements need to be downloaded and once they are they can begin infecting your device. Until they are discovered and removed, they will continue to wreak havoc on people's computers.

How can malvertising be harmful to me?

The chance that once you fall for malvertising, nothing harmful will happen, is very unlikely. Once the cybercriminal has access to confidential information, they can release it or delete it. Some hijackers even use their new access to spy on your activity. There are several different forms of harmful malvertising that should be avoided, which include the following:

Pop-up ads:

Pop-up ads are often used by websites to provide additional information on a product or service. They are a way to advertise online without being overly disruptive. Some ways that you could begin getting unwanted or untrustworthy pop-ups is from downloading content such as images, free music, or free movies, etc. These pop-ups can be malicious and when clicked may infect your computer with various viruses or give someone access to sensitive information. For this reason, it is important to be careful with the sites you choose to visit and what you are clicking.


Banner ads are used to attract people to click them. They can often highlight fake deals or coupon codes, fake warning signs to scare you into thinking you have a virus, or just any content that will grab your attention. They can look real, so it is important to be careful when clicking around on them.

Video Ads:

Videos are an easy grab the attraction of website viewers. Video ads often consist of games, sports, celebrity news, or even a current event that will incentivize you to click on them.

Inline Frames:

An inline frame is an HTML feature that is used to embed videos, documents, and media into a page. You can include content from other sources and integrate the content anywhere within your page. Inline is a great tool but when hacked get a hold of it, it can be very harmful. Hackers embed inline Frames with trafficked websites and redirect them to a malicious page.

Who can be infected by malvertising?

There are several highly credible sites that have been affected by malvertising including, The New York Times, The London Stock Exchange, and The Atlantic. With malvertising most people, if not everyone, are targets. Hackers can access sensitive information, deceive people and convince them to give personal information or pay money, or even prohibit your ability to use your computer.

How to avoid malvertising?

  • Install antivirus software to protect against some drive-by downloads or malicious codes.
  • Install Adblockers which will block all ads and minimize your risk of clicking them.
  • Keep your browsers and plug-ins up to date to prevent malvertising attacks.malvertising
  • Be careful not to click on anything that you are not 100 percent sure about- always err on the side of caution!

Malvertising is a huge issue, especially as people rely heavily on the utilization of computers and cell phones for working, buying, researching, and connecting. What many people don’t realize is that they may be overlooking drastic security threats on these devices. Malvertising threats could potentially lead to hackers obtaining your confidential information and holding it against you or leaking it. In order to stay safe from becoming a victim of this malicious scheme, we recommend speaking to a professional who can walk you through the necessary precautions you and your users should take to protect your identity.