Glossary / Malvertising


The use of online advertising to spread malware typically involving injecting malicious or malware-laden advertisements into legitimate online advertising networks and webpages.

What is Malvertising?

Malvertising is a form of online advertising where malicious software is used to infect computers. It is usually done by using an infected advertisement that redirects the user to a site that contains malware, which then installs itself onto the user's computer without their knowledge. This malicious software is designed to steal information, damage computer systems, or gain access to private data.

This type of malicious software isn't limited to annoying pop-up ads; it can also include deceptive website links, misleading banner advertisements, and even spam. It doesn't matter what type of content you see—if it looks suspicious, chances are it could be a type of malware trying to steal your data or infect your machine.

If you visit a site that displays malicious ads, you may notice something unusual about the webpage. Your software security may also send a pop-up.

This is also an enormous problem for advertisers. Advertisers spend billions of dollars each year trying to reach consumers with relevant advertisements. If those ads end up being used by criminals to install malware, then the advertiser loses out on all that money. This has been observed when an ad network doesn’t properly vet those placing ads, particularly when they allow these third parties to insert their own code into the ads being served. Malvertising can also occur when the ad network lacks the safeguards to prevent malicious actors from inserting their own code into the ads.

What is the Difference Between malvertising and adware?

Malvertising refers to malicious advertisements that are displayed on websites. Ad malware refers to adware that is installed on computers without users' consent. The most common form of malvertising is through popular websites and social media sites. These ads often contain links to malicious websites that install malware on visitors' computers.

Adware is a target-specific malware that displays advertisements whether or not it does so with the user’s consent. Malvertising is deceptive by design and attempts to remain hidden in users’ computers. Adware is a software application that hides in plain sight within ads that are typically bundled with legitimate programs like software packages.