“Malvertising” might seem like one of those stupid buzzwords coined by some PC security researcher with nothing better to do (actually, that’s probably exactly where the term came from).
But malvertising is also one of 2015’s biggest security threats – and more users are falling victim than ever before.
What is malvertising and why is it so dangerous to computer users like you and me? Find out today.

What is Malvertising?

Malvertising is a name coined by the PC security industry to describe criminally-controlled advertisements which have malicious intentions.
These advertisements are intentionally designed to infect people and businesses. Ads can appear on low-quality websites. Or they can even appear on Google’s search engine results pages.
You may see dozens of malvertisements in an average day on the internet. Sometimes, you might even click on them. You might not know it’s a malvertisement until it’s far too late.
Don’t believe me that malvertising is a big problem? It’s such a big problem that the US Senate (of all organizations) issued a report called “Online Advertising and Hidden Hazards to Consumer Security and Data Privacy” in 2014.
Today, malvertising isn’t going away: it’s just becoming more advanced. Malvertising technology has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years – and users are coming under fire more than ever before.

Why Today’s Malvertisements Are More Dangerous Than Ever

Today’s malvertisements often use advanced technology to mask the fact that they’re malicious. That technology involves small bits of code running in the background.
Here’s what the official PC security blog at Malwarebytes had to say about that technology:
“Without your knowledge a tiny piece of code hidden deep in the advert is making your computer go to criminal servers. These then catalogue details about your computer and its location, before choosing which piece of malware to send you. This doesn’t need a new browser window and you won’t know about it.”
In other words, there are minuscule background processes which transmit your personal information to remote criminal servers. After your information is on those servers, it’s probably not being used for anything good.
In many cases, the first sign of a malvertising infection will come in the form of malware. The malware might suddenly lock down your computer or you could even receive phone calls from thieves demanding a ransom in exchange for your computer. Seriously!
Here’s the real scary part about Malvertisements: you don’t have to download anything or perform any actions on your part.
As soon as you visit a website infected with a malvertisement, that criminal code may already be running on the background of your system.
You don’t have to click anything, verify a download, or confirm that you want to visit a malicious site. It just happens – and that’s what’s causing more and more intelligent PC users to fall victim to malvertising scams.
Whether you’re reading the morning headlines at your trusted local news website or updating your social media profile, you could fall victim to Malvertisements at any time.

How Are Malvertisements Spread?

Malvertisements don’t come from one place on the internet. They come from a diverse range of sources.
In some cases, they’re found on trusted sources – Google and Yahoo might inadvertently display malicious advertisements, for example. Users could click on these websites when browsing through search results or looking at any website online.
It’s more common, however, for malvertisement authors to approach third-party websites and pay to directly advertise in a certain digital space.
Both Google and other online advertising platforms let advertisement authors bid on ad spaces. If a malware author wants their ad to be seen by thousands of people in a short period of time, he or she just needs to outbid the rest of the competition.

How to Defend Yourself

There are two effective ways to defend yourself against malvertisements:
1) Update all your critical programs, like browsers, Flash, Java, and your operating system
2) Use an ad blocking program on your PC
Neither of these methods is foolproof. You can also try running antivirus software in the background all the time, although most antivirus software will let malvertisements slip through the cracks.
Malwarebytes recommends using its free anti-exploit add-on for browsers. We haven’t personally tested the program, so we can’t say whether or not it’s effective. But it may be worth a download here if you’re especially paranoid about malvertisements.

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