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“Danger: Malware Ahead!- Please, Not My Site”

Created: 17 Jan 2013
Leelin Thye's picture
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In the article “Google Flags Ad Network Isocket for Alleged Malware; Chrome Blocks TechCrunch, Cult of Mac, others (Updated)”,[1] a large number of popular sites using a prominent advertising network was affected when  their sites were blocked by Google on suspicion of containing malware. Regardless whether the action was a result of false positive reading or not, the financial impact to advertising networks and their client sites is high when users are unable to access the websites and see a “Danger: Malware Ahead!” warning.  Business is disrupted and brand reputation compromised.

On the other hand, malvertisement is a growing issue, increasing 20x from 2010 to 2012, and more than 50% of publishers have experienced a malvertising incident one or more times.[2]  When that happens, malware is propagated to client sites and customers, and everyone in that ecosystem sustains financial loss.  For publishers and distributors, missed revenue potential per day could range from $14,000 to $5 million[3]; long term reparation of brand reputation damage would add significantly to the financial costs.

 Here are 4 basic steps for publishers and advertisers to help prevent malvertisements:

  • Make sure your clients are legitimate businesses.  Some ways to do that is to verify that their domains have been authenticated by a Certificate Authority, and include email authentication for all inbound and outbound servers to prevent being victims of spoofing.
  • Create a risk assessment  evaluation template, an example is listed on https://otalliance.org/resources/malvertising/New%20Advertiser%20Risk%20Evaluation.pdf
  • Create a separate sand-box to test and evaluate all creative.
  • Deploy a malvertisement detection and reporting program for early detection.  Symantec just launched Symantec AdVantage recently and you can sign up for a free trial prior to purchase.

By implementing these steps, ad publishers and distributors could help prevent the spread of malvertisements. I think we can all agree that less malvertisements would translate to a better web experience for everyone, including merchants and consumers.


[2] Symantec & AdMonsters Malvertising Research, September 2012

[3] Symantec & AdMonsters Malvertising Research, September 2012