NewsJanuary 12, 2017 @ 11:15 AM

Ad Fraud Generates Cash for Cybercriminals and Pain for Website Managers

Cybercriminals are using compromised websites and ad fraud to hijack revenue from business owners. Bleeping Computer recently reported that researchers had detected two campaigns in the past few weeks that seem unrelated. Both errant operations exploited Google’s specialist service AdSense, which gives website holders the opportunity to run advertisements alongside their content.

Analyzing Two Ad Fraud Assaults

Cybersecurity firm Sucuri discovered the first campaign, which focused on fake ad panels. Specialists at the company were asked to analyze giant ads that ran over content on a series of compromised websites.

The attacks relied on the insertion of malicious JavaScript code that placed the giant Google ads on top of the website’s own content. The assaults ran on both mobile and desktop sites and across a variety of platforms, including WordPress, Joomla and HTML-based sites.

Clickjacking Costs Businesses Billions

Rather than running on compromised pages, the second campaign involved pushing users to nefarious websites, according to security firm Malwarebytes. The company referred to the attack as a clickjacking campaign in which errant individuals were abusing Google ads for personal financial gain, potentially costing authentic businesses billions of dollars.

Any visitors to a high-traffic adult site were automatically redirected to a separate page that appeared to stream other adult videos. This second website was, in fact, fake. Visitors trying to play the video were directed to a hidden ad. Unwitting clicks on this paid ad generated cash for the criminals behind the scam, SC Magazine reported.

Fraud Fuels the Ad Market

Although probably unrelated, both campaigns caused problems for users and business owners related to potential security concerns and financial loss. Malwarebytes suggested that there is a direct correlation between growth in the ad market and fraud.

For its part, Sucuri suggested that this type of ad fraud has become increasingly common. If there is money to be made, criminals will look for potential loopholes.

Business owners and website managers should beware of the risk posed by ad fraud and clickjacking. These stakeholders should also regularly check the Google ads on their sites and consider using tools to help monitor malicious activity. Integrity monitoring technology can help them stay on top of website modifications and unwanted alterations.

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Mark Samuels

Tech Journalist

Mark Samuels is an experienced business technology journalist with an outstanding track record in research. He specializes in the role of chief information officers (CIOs) and is adept at helping executives understand the business benefits of complex technologies. Key areas of interest include innovation, digital transformation, cloud computing, mobility, information security, ecommerce and big data. Mark has written articles for national newspapers, including The Guardian, The Times and The Sunday Times. He has also produced features and columns for a range of IT trade publications, such as Computer Weekly, ZDNet, Tech Republic, IT Pro, Channel Pro, CBR and The Register.