Most consumers know not to provide personal information when they encounter a suspicious email. But these days, more malware programs are popping up on computer screens and they are cleverly disguised. Leading website operators are trying to stay on top of the problem but malware poses a threat to advertising revenues as consumers grow leery of clicking on ads.
A recent article in USA Today described the rising problem of malware. Bryon Achohido explained that the problem “has spiked tenfold over the past year.” This statistic comes from industry operator RiskIQ which offers, among other things, malware detection and fraud prevention in ad systems. At an industry conference, Risk IQ analysts reported that they had detected well over 10,000 instances of malvertisements in May of this year as compared to about 1,500 instances last May. RiskIQ CEO Elias Manousos noted that these bad ads were detected on popular sites such as weather.com and monster.com. Thousands of PCs have likely been infected, depending on the length of time an ad is available.
Industry experts note that the basic design of Web browsers contains weaknesses. In addition, the criminals behind malvertisements have become very good at sneaking ads into “the distribution systems run by advertising networks.” Some malware also prompts consumers to click on ads to fix what are being promoted as problems on their PCs. As soon as these events occur, consumers began posting messages on social media sites such as Twitter and traffic on the affected site drops which results in a hit to ad revenue.
Consumers can protect their PCs by regularly updating their browsers and maintaining their anti-virus programs. But industry operators realize they have a growing problem on their hands. According to Craig Spiezle, of the Online Trust Association, “key stakeholders” are now paying attention to the problem. They’ll need to put additional safety measures in place to assure marketers that their ads won’t be used in ways that won’t disrupt consumer PCs and anger potential customers.[Sources: About Us. RiskIQ.com. Web. 16 Nov. 2011; Acohido, Byron. Uptick in tainted ads hurts consumers, advertisers. USAToday.com. 3 Nov. 2011. Web. 16 Nov. 2011]