Commentary

Ponder This: Malvertising Could Be One Reason For Rise In Ad Blocking

Will malvertising change the advertising industry's view on ad blockers, the software in browsers that prohibit ads from serving up in the Web page?

The malvertising attack that recently hit Yahoo has now moved to other advertising networks serving ads across AOL, eBay, Drudge Report Weather Underground and NetZero, among others, but the more interesting news comes from a comment under the Malwarebytes Labs post.

"Is it really any wonder that ad blockers are so popular?" writes capnkrunch. "Instead of complaining about lost revenue the ad industry needs to reform itself. It really shouldn't have to be a choice between supporting the ad sponsored sites I frequent (which I really want to be able to do) or rolling the dice on being served Cryptowall 3 by the Angler EK."

Capnkrunch takes a stab at the advertising industry, suggesting companies have had plenty of time to address the issue, but chose to do nothing more than complain about how unfair it is for people to use ad blockers.  

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A study from Adobe and PageFair estimates the loss of global revenue due to blocked advertisements in 2015 at more than $21.8 billion, rising to $41.4 billion in 2016. Although the study doesn't make this conclusion, I'm convinced that the rise of malvertising and ad blocking could explain the slowing growth of revenue from search and display ads supported by Bing, Google, and Yahoo.

It turns out that the malware behind the recent Yahoo malvertising attack moved to another advertising network used by many of the top publishers to infect their sites. Weather.com, for example, supports about 121 million visits per month. Drudgereport.com 61.8M visits per month, and wunderground.com 49.9 million visits per month.

The malvertising is loaded via AdSpirit.de and includes a redirection to an Azure Web site. Note how both URLs are using HTTPS encryption, making it harder to detect the malicious traffic on the network.

Jerome Segura, security researcher at Malwarebytes, responded by suggesting the popularity of ad blockers may really force the ad industry to change how they serve advertisments. "It could be the use of new technologies that make malvertising harder or perhaps sponsored content where the advertiser is mentioned throughout the article in other ways than with a traditional 'ad banner.'" he wrote.

3 comments about "Ponder This: Malvertising Could Be One Reason For Rise In Ad Blocking".
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  1. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, August 17, 2015 at 11:47 a.m.

    We all saw this coming and we all chose not to look.  When ads are sold through third part channels, this happens period.  Publishers chose the short term gains of selling their unsold inventory on ad networks and now exchanges, and as a result, there will be less ads to sell because of the ad blockers consumers should use.  Shame on us.

  2. Anni Paul from BoscoSystems, August 17, 2015 at 8:22 p.m.

    Malvertising is THE reason for the spike. Annoying ads are one thing, dagerous ads are another. That has to stop. If not, I hope ad blockers become universal smartphone features.

  3. Craig Spiezle from AgeLight LLC, August 18, 2015 at 11:41 p.m.

    This is an industry problem impacting consumers, publishers and last but not least advertisers.  We can no longer ignore the elephant in the room and must work to address it.  Combined with privacy issues, lack of willingness to embrace DNT and the abusive native advertising trends we are not postured for success.  Will this be the demise of advertising as we know it?  https://otalliance.org/blog/demise-online-advertising-we-know-it

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