We have all seen the digital advertisements on web pages we visit. Many of them contain pop-up ads offering to install software or force a redirect to a different website. These appear on all varieties of sites from Facebook, online email accounts, and even online news sites. Most of these ads are not coming from the page you’re actually visiting but from an advertising agency that has bought the space on the site. The actual site you are visiting really has nothing to do with the advertisements. In fact, they often don’t even monitor them to ensure they are not malicious or harmful for users. This has led many banks and credit unions, as well as individuals, to be leery of online ads and begin proactively blocking them from appearing.
Hundreds of billions of ad impressions occur each month, and digital ad revenue for online advertising was estimated to top $237 billion in 2018. Many of the publishers and website owners argue that ads are important to their success and ad blocking is wrong and furthers budgetary constraints. However, the risks associated with online tracking and advertising are substantial and users should be proactively blocking malicious advertisements to ensure network security.
How many malicious ads are there really?
While it is no secret that there are malicious ads out there, many don’t truly understand the severity. In 2017, Google took down more than 3.2 billion ads that violated their advertising policies. That’s more than 100 bad ads per second, 365 days a year! Google blocked 79 million ads in their network for attempting to send people to malware-laden sites, and removed 400,000 of these unsafe sites the previous year. Google also removed 66 million “trick-to-click” ads as well as 48 million ads that were attempting to get users to install unwanted software. That’s a lot of bad ads and malicious activity!
How do malicious ads work?
Malware can affect even the most careful user due to the nature of how advertisements are designed to automatically run code when they are loaded. Attackers often attach hidden code to otherwise innocent looking ads for well-known products or services. While many of the large ad networks perform due diligence and scan for such malicious content, there are dozens, if not hundreds that don’t. Once these ads are clicked on or even hovered over, hackers are able to do things like access a computer’s webcam, open the microphone or access files on the computer – general computer takeover.
How can you protect yourself?
To protect against malicious ads, make sure all browser and operating system updates are current. These patches often contain updates that can stop the malware that is hidden in ads. Also, make sure all antivirus and antimalware software is up to date. This is important because this software can find the malware before it does damage. Ad blocking solutions provide a vital security layer that severs as a way to block malicious ads. It also blocks privacy-invading tracking plugins from collecting and harvesting personal information.
These malicious ads and content are ruining the online experience for users. Blocking them wards against hackers, ensures your network and devices are safe, and enhances the user experience.