Had-to-Happen Dept: Viruses in Online Ads

The Wall Street Journal has a chilling story (paid sub required, sorry) about hackers planting viruses in online banner ads. Click on the infected ad and bang! the payload lands in your computer.  From WSJ.com:

In May, a virus in a banner ad on tomshardware.com automatically switched visitors to a Web site that downloaded “malware” — malicious software designed to attack a computer — onto the visitor’s computer. ScanSafe Inc., one of the first security firms to discover the virus, estimates the banner ad was on the site for at least 24 hours and infected 50,000 to 100,000 computers before Tom’s Hardware removed it.

This trend – call it the evolution of the spyware pop-up – could cause major headaches for members of the online ad ecosystem, from the advertisers to the publishers to, in particular, the network providers that serve up the ads. The complexity and automated nature of this supply chain will make it difficult to keep hackers out. With large chunks of ad budgets being shifted to online, this problem could quickly percolate into a full-fledged crisis. Just wait until malware starts showing up on web-enabled cell phones!

I knew I had a good reason for never clicking on web ads.


3 thoughts on “Had-to-Happen Dept: Viruses in Online Ads”

  1. I wonder how many of us there are that don’t click on web ads. In fact, I think the knowledge that they are sponsored links often keeps me from clicking them. Which calls into question their effectiveness, at least to a segment of us.

  2. It’s happening with blogs as well. The owner of the blog posts a nice tasty little bit of content, gets it picked up by Google and Techorati, then quickly does a redirect on the page at the server level to a malware site. Bingo, everyone who wanted to read that nice little post they saw on Technorati gets a very nasty little surprise…

    I’ve avoided it, but I have seen this happen 4 times in the past week or so…

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