A mouse navigating the dangers that come from malware ads.

It’s easier than you’d think to become susceptible to malware ads.

You have more than likely visited websites that have had malware ads running on them. They’re everywhere, whether you know it or not. Often referred to as “malvertising,” these malware ads infiltrate sites as a banner or popup ad and then redirects you to a harmful website.

How do malware ads find their way onto these sites? First, someone hacks into an ad delivery server. They then upload an ad with harmful content unbeknownst to the ad network. Once it’s in the ad network, users are put at risk.

Many people might assume that an attack of this kind only happens on sites you shouldn’t be on in the first place. But high-volume sites such as the New York Times and Spotify were victims to this type of attack in 2016 alone.

Malware Ads Spread Ransomware

This is the biggest problem with malvertising. By disguising itself as a regular ad in the server, one could potentially appear anywhere. And the consequences of getting a malware ad are varied. The most devious of these problems is ransomware.

Ransomware instantly downloads itself onto your computer. It then denies access to your computer or its files until you pay the hacker to decrypt it. This is a shady operation designed to hold the user hostage.

AdBlock’s Role in Preventing Malvertising

For many, installing AdBlock is a contentious issue with obvious benefits, as well as more its share of nuanced negatives. As users become more accustomed to getting their content for free, the sites themselves need to find revenue in different ways. Hence, the advertisements. These ads can be annoying, however. This is why many users have resorted to AdBlock. Forbes recently pleaded with their users to turn off their AdBlock because of the effect it has on their revenue. Their site was then hacked by a malware ad shortly after.

A situation like this creates an even stronger case for AdBlock than it ever had before. Protection from these harmful ads is crucial. Users can’t leave themselves open to these attacks. Ad networks will have to get stronger security in order to make users comfortable with getting rid of their AdBlock. Because as it currently stands, both parties are losing.