Rise of the “Malvertisements”

We’ve frequently made the point in our presentations and in our podcast episodes that the scammers are always inventing new ways to carry out their noxious work. A new trend in the online world you may not be aware of is called “malvertisements,” a combination of the words “malware” and “advertisement.” As you can easily infer, this is a method the crooks use to deliver bad stuff (malware) to your computer through ads. The most common websites where malvertising can be found are sports, news, and entertainment sites such as CBS news, NBC sports, and Yahoo. Yahoo seems to have been particularly hard-hit, according to reports. The statistics show that malvertisements have exploded in the first half of 2015, up 260% over last year.

Part of what makes this stuff so bad is that it is virtually undetectable to us regular people. It looks like any other ad that lurks off to the side or pops up on a website. That’s what makes this so appealing to the criminals–it circumvents people’s natural or acquired caution because the malvertisements look so normal. It’s also apparently very hard for security professionals to shut down because most websites rely on ads for their revenue and it’s next to impossible to screen every ad on a site.

So what can regular people do to prevent malvertisements from wreaking havoc on our computers? Here are 6 tips:

  • Install and update antivirus and 2-way firewall software.
  • Make sure you update your operating system as soon as the new version is released.
  • Disable flash players in browsers
  • Don’t click on any pop-ups that say you’ve won a prize or entice you with curiosity: “See the photos of Julia Roberts without her makeup!” e.g.
  • Be especially careful when browsing on weekends. Security experts say the criminals often launch malvertisements on weekends when fewer people are guarding websites.
  • Use a pop-up blocker or ad block add-on for the browser you most often use. If you’re not sure how to do this ask a trusted professional. Scammers can make pop-ups that load malware onto your computer as soon as the ad appears, and even when you click the X to get rid of the pop-up. Devious, huh!

Until the cybersecurity experts stop this trend altogether, it’s up to all of us to help our seniors (and ourselves) stay safe from the sneaky cyberscammers!


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