Malvertising 101: What Is It & 4 Ways To Avoid It
Websites that feature fraudulent malware advertisements can end up severely damaging your company’s network and devices. But how can your company’s employees avoid malicious advertisements from wreaking havoc on their computing devices?
At LDI, our managed IT team educates clients on IT best practices and cybersecurity tools so that their network is equipped to handle online cyber threats. In addition, our managed IT team helps clients implement, KnowBe4’s cybersecurity awareness training program which provides employees with the understanding of how to best handle a cyber threat.
This article will cover what malvertising is, how it works, and four ways your company and its employees can avoid it. By the end of this article, you will understand the damage malvertising can cause and why it’s important to avoid these malicious advertisements at all costs.
What Is Malvertising?
Malvertising (malicious advertising) is essentially any online advertisement that incorporates a form of malware. Hackers or cyber attackers use malvertising as a clever way to gain access to your confidential information.
Once the online advertisement is clicked, the malware can damage your computer and network. Unfortunately, online advertisements are a solid platform for spreading malware due to the effort put into appearing real and attracting users to advertise a product.
Through malvertising, hackers can steal passwords, delete files and wreak havoc on your computer. Malware is dangerous because it can significantly affect the security and daily business operations of your company.
How Does A Malvertising Attack Work?
For malvertising to effectively work, cyber attackers need to buy ad space on a website or from an ad network. They then embed a piece of code deep within a real-looking online advertisement and supply it to be displayed in the space they bought.
Unfortunately, the malvertising attack can occur whether a user clicks on the advertisement or the website loads it on its own and can attack you without requiring a click.
Once the user’s device is directed to a compromised server, an exploit kit created by the cyber attacker hosted on that server can infiltrate your network. An exploit kit is a particular malware that assesses a system and determines what vulnerabilities exist on the system to exploit each vulnerability.
At that point, the cyber attacker can install malware onto that computing device by utilizing the security bypass and exploit kit.
The cyber attacker will then have full access to the computer and access confidential information, lock the user out of their operating system, or even hold onto the data for ransom via a ransomware attack.
What Are 4 Ways To Avoid Malvertising?
Malvertising can pose a significant risk to both your company and your employees’ sensitive information.
Let’s review four ways your company can steer clear of falling victim to a malvertising trap.
1. Use An Ad Blocker
Ad blockers are created for computing devices and wireless devices to remove any unwanted advertisements from popping up.
Suppose each employee has an ad blocker installed on their desktop or laptop. In that case, malvertising campaigns will not be able to reach them. Think about it, with an ad blocker; no one will accidentally click on a malicious online advertisement if that ad does not appear on the screen.
Keep in mind that not every ad blocker can filter all ads and block them from popping up. Some websites may not even run effectively if an ad blocker is turned on.
Luckily, ad blockers are typically customizable and allow you to control receiving online advertisements from particular sites of your choosing.
2. Implement An Endpoint Detection Plan
An endpoint detection platform, such as SentinelOne, offers excellent protection against known and unknown cyber-attacks to your company’s endpoints.
Endpoint detection software acts as a quick first defense against malware, ransomware, and other damaging attacks.
SentinelOne can prevent malware from corrupting your company’s network by pinpointing the exact cause of the threat.
It also provides your in-house IT department or managed IT provider to handle the incident with precision.
3. Use A Secure Browser
A secure browser, also referred to as a safe browser, includes special features that can protect your company from malicious online threats such as malvertising.
One feature a secure browser offers is blocking third-party activity while a user browses the web. This feature is meant to stop the activity or the monitoring of your activity from an unauthorized user. It can encourage companies to control what occurs with your browser.
Some secure browsers have a built-in ad-blocker that can protect you in real-time from phishing sites, malware, and identity theft.
4. Turn On Click-To-Play
While every browser enables you to choose a “click-to-play” option, not everyone knows what “click-to-play” means.
By selecting “click-to-play,” you as the user authorize what gets played automatically and what does not.
For example, content that requires plugins to play, such as Adobe Reader, QuickTime, Java, or Flash, will be disabled unless the user manually selects “ok” for the content to begin and play on their own.
By selecting the “click-to-play option in your browser’s settings, you can ultimately protect yourself from drive-by download
Is Your Company Prepared To Avoid Malvertising?
Malicious cyber threats are evolving every day.
With malvertising being one of the scariest forms of cyber attacks out there, it’s imperative to understand how important it is for your company and employees to know how to avoid it.
LDI specializes in recommending cybersecurity solutions after evaluating your company’s security posture through an IT security risk assessment.
Learn more about what an IT security risk assessment entails and how it can help your company close any plausible security gaps.