As anyone who’s spent any significant amount of time online knows, the Internet offers users many amazing things, but also harbors some threats and pitfalls. In fact, it seems that every month or so, something new comes up for which we need to be on the lookout.

The latest threat appears to be malvertising, a bit of unpleasantness that accompanies some online ads. if we needed another reason to hate advertising! Thanks, technology!

The Looming Threat Of Malvertisement

Check out the scoop on malvertising and how to deal with it.

Malvertising Defined

The term “malvertisement” is a portmanteau of “malicious” (though some people use “malware”) and “advertisement”. The article “Introducing The New Enemy Of Your Secure Network: Malvertising” describes it as “malware that is hidden in the code of an advertisement placed on a website.”

Malvertisement is a different animal from the obviously fraudulent ads we see online. You know the ones that promise jobs that pay thousands of dollars an hour for staring at your navel, or miracle pills that ramp up your sex drive, all which amount to phishing schemes. Hackers embed malvertising ads onto legitimate and trusted sites, not those sketchy, questionable sites that your mother warned you about.

How Bad Is Malvertising?

It’s bad enough that malvertising is difficult to find, but what makes it worse is that in many instances you don’t even have to click on the ad. That’s right, almost half the time, just seeing the ad on your screen can be enough to infect your system.

The only small bright spot in this otherwise gloomy situation is that malvertisements have to be written to target one given operating system. So if you’re using an Android OS smartphone and you’re visiting a site that has malvertising that’s targeting PCs, you’re probably safe. But don’t worry, smartphone users, the creeps who come up with malvertising haven’t forgotten about you. Malvertising for smartphones does exist, and it usually finds its way onto your device through a bad app that attempts to download itself.

What Can Be Done About It?

So how do you go about fighting malvertising? After all, it’s stealthy, nigh-undetectable, and yet it can strike at you without warning. It’s like the Predator alien!

But here are ways you can fight back. Just bear in mind that the best way to combat malvertisements is not to have them on your system in the first place. Prevention is the key. With that in mind …

Keep Browsers/Plug-ins Updated. Make sure you’re running the latest version of your Web browsers, as well as plugins such as Adobe Flash and Java.

Prevent Ads From Automatically Running. You can do this by changing browser settings to “Click to Run” and disabling Java. In the latter case, make sure you’re not disabling Javascript.

Raise The Flags! Set your browsers to flag malicious content.
Get The Right Plug-In. There are ad and script blocking plug-ins available out there for a variety of browsers. Download and install the proper one.

Employ An Antivirus Application. Many of today’s antivirus programs can spot and protect you from malware, so if you don’t have one in place yet, address the issue IMMEDIATELY.

Don’t Click On Ads Or Visit Sketchy Sites. A good way not to get mugged in a bad neighborhood is not to go into a dangerous neighborhood in the first place. Stay away from dubious websites, and don’t click on bizarre popups and sleazy ads.

There is no way to protect your system completely from malvertisement, but by following this advice, you’re stacking the deck in your favor.