Internet security software and common sense can steer you away from the some of the Web’s riskiest destinations to avoid malware, but when it’s embedded in ads from some of the biggest advertising networks out there, you may be looking at infection at every turn.
The attack infects advertisements served up by a number of online advertisers, helping place malware on the computers of people visiting leading websites such as Google and Yahoo.
The most compromised services are yieldmanager.com (Yahoo) and fimserve.com (FOX Audience Network) which cover more than 50% of online ads. The list of poisoned ad services is extensive and includes advertangel.com, bannerimg.com, jambovideonework.com, myspace.com, vestraff.com and zedo.com. Doubleclick.com, an advertising server affiliated with Google, is ranked fifth in the avast! Virus Lab list of infected servers by rate of infection.
Because the infected networks serve more than 50 percent of all online advertising, poisoned ads have appeared on major sites including The New York Times, TechCrunch and Drudge Report.
This isn’t the only outbreak of a computer virus spread through advertising. “The poison ad infiltration method is growing in popularity because it does not require users to click on anything,” said Avast virus analyst Jiri Sejtko, in a statement. “Users can get infected just by reading their favorite newspaper or by doing a search on popular topics; the infection begins just after the poisoned ad is loaded by the browser.”
To make matters even worse, there is no provision for ads of this nature to be illegal. Where will the lawsuits land when major networks are compromised with these attacks? The browser manufacturer? The ad provider? The search engine? The user? The actual attackers? And lawmakers are siding with the advertising agencies behind it all – follow the money!