What is malvertising - The CAG


How to identify ads?- The CAG


What is Malvertising and How to Protect Yourself From it?

Advertisements can be informative and useful for creating product awareness. With the advent of digital advertising, they are now all over the place and can be a source of distraction and annoyance. But what most of us don’t know is online ads are increasingly becoming carriers of malware – malvertising. Our cybersecurity team from Perth have been engaged frequently in the past few months to remediate cyber incidents triggered by such ads. What is malvertising? How can you protect yourself from it? Read on to understand more.

What is malvertising?

In simple terms, malvertising is the process of circulating malware through online ads. The path the malware chooses to infect your system depends on the interaction you have with the advertisement.

Sometimes, it is when you click on the ad, and it leads you to a pop-up. Sometimes, it just happens even if you don’t do anything. Redirecting automatically to unwanted pages is also a sign of malvertising. The troubling part is neither users nor the infected website owners may notice the malicious ad.

How to identify malvertising ads?

Not all online ads are malicious, but a few tell-tale signs can alert you to the real intent of the ads. Look out for ads with:

Spelling errors

Celebrity scandals

Offer miraculous cures that seem almost impossible

Lousy graphic designs

Pornographic content

Getting rich fast

The chances are high that these ads have malware hidden within them and are waiting for you to click so they can infect your device.

Is adware the same as malvertising

Even though adware and malvertising use advertising medium for spying on users, they both have different purposes.

Adware is an advertisement-supported software and often comes pre-installed on devices, let it be a smartphone or a computer. In most cases, they are attached to free software. They observe user interests and display related ads. Usually, they are not dangerous, but frequent advertisements can be quite irritating. Adware become dangerous when they show pop-up ads in windows that you can’t close, deliver malicious software etc.

How to protect yourself from malvertising?

The first and most basic measure is to avoid clicking on shady ads. There are many other efficient solutions to stay safe from malvertising.

Enable click-to-play

Enable click-to-play in your browser settings. This will prevent auto-play for media and will request permission every time. This option can be found in the ‘Plug-in’ sections in most browsers.

Install ad-blocker

What is malvertising - How to protect - Computing Australia, Perth

Ad-blockers block the majority of ads and pop-ups. Some browsers have built-in ad-blockers. You can also enable them as browser extensions.

Research the ad

Found an exciting offer? Don’t directly click on the ads; instead, go to the official site and search for the offer. If the ad is legitimate, the offer will be available on the site.

Install antivirus package and update regularly

Ensure that you have a good antivirus package installed that gives comprehensive protection, including adware and malvertising. Also, ensure that you regularly renew the antivirus software when due and update all patches.

Download from official websites and resources only

Ensure you download apps, plug-ins, browser extensions etc., from official websites and Play Store or Apple store.

Ads may be striking, but they can be harmful. Following safe online practices can protect you from malvertising. To know more, contact our cybersecurity specialists or email us at cybersecurity@computingaustralia.group.

Jargon Buster

Browser – is an application for accessing data on the Internet.
Malware – a term for Malicious Software that is intended to cause harm to devices, networks and servers. Common types include viruses, ransomware, spyware etc.
Pop-ups – pop-up ads are forms of online advertisement that are graphical user interface display areas that suddenly appear in the visual interface.

Peter Machalski | Blog author | Computing Australia


Peter is the Systems Operations Manager at The Computing Australia Group, he is responsible for managing and maintaining uptime for thousands of client servers. It is a busy portfolio with a lot of responsibility because clients depend on their systems being accessible practically 24 hours a day. It is a far cry from when he started in the industry when most people just worked Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 and we had plenty of time to maintain systems after hours. He also works across other portfolios at The CAG, including projects and service delivery.