Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Crime Security Advertising Communications Privacy Software The Internet

Crooks Created 28 Fake Ad Agencies To Disguise Massive Malvertising Campaign ( 36

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: A group of cyber-criminals created 28 fake ad agencies and bought over 1 billion ad views in 2017, which they used to deliver malicious ads that redirected unsuspecting users to tech support scams or sneaky pages peddling malware-laden software updates or software installers. The entire operation -- codenamed Zirconium -- appears to have started in February 2017, when the group started creating the fake ad agencies which later bought ad views from larger ad platforms. These fake ad agencies each had individual websites and even LinkedIn profiles for their fake CEOs. Their sole purpose was to interface with larger advertising platforms, appearing as legitimate businesses. Ad security company Confiant, the one who discovered this entire operation, says ads bought by this group reached 62% of ad-monetized websites on a weekly basis. All in all, Confiant believes that about 2.5 million users who've encountered Zirconium's malicious ads were redirected to a malicious site, with 95% of the victims being based in the U.S.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Crooks Created 28 Fake Ad Agencies To Disguise Massive Malvertising Campaign

Comments Filter:
  • Not surprised. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by YukariHirai ( 2674609 ) on Friday January 26, 2018 @09:29PM (#56012577)
    This is why I use an adblocker, and am not moved by any given website's pleas for me to deactivate it for their site.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      100% these sites are to lazy to get their own advertising and audit the adverts properly....

    • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

      Yep. It's noscript for me - and I won't turn it off or whitelist your website/s until the adverstising industry implements some security to validate what it's sending to pester me.

      Perhaps a, oh what would you call it? A "certificate"?

    • Re:Not surprised. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Friday January 26, 2018 @09:45PM (#56012649)
      I wouldn't mind internet ads if they weren't so damned obnoxious. If it were just a plain .gif or something similar like a small image and a blurb of text, I probably wouldn't care about them at all or even bother blocking them. I'm not going to click on them or give them any thought, but I'll tolerate their presence as a way for a website to make some money.

      However, its the auto-play audio or video and the hideously massive blob of javascript that can bring multiple cores to a grinding halt for prolonged moments. It's the massive banner ads and side bars the obscure the content that a I care about and their seeming ability to break my experience with random focus requests and an insistence of tracking my across every site that I visit while eating just as much or more data and bandwidth as the content I'm there to see. Its the malicious ads running little programs to use my CPU cycles to mine for cryptocurrencies or that even try to infect my machine in other ways. Fuck all of that and everything else about them as well.

      Build a system that makes it impossible for ads to be annoying in the ways above, or I'm not turning off the adblocker either.
      • I just hate advertising in general, offline or online.

        So for me it's Firefox with uBlock Origin (dynamic mode with 3rd-party resources on default-deny), Privacy Badger, DDG Privacy Essentials, Decentraleyes, Cookie Autodelete, Canvasblocker, First Party Isolation, Smart Referer and Link Cleaner.

    • So apparently, they created things that we get to se, in order to make us lose money, without any us having any gain from it.

      How's that any different than all advertising ever, by its very definition?

      If it wasn't to rip us off, then a record of all its properties, with SI units and standardized testing methods, would automatically put it at the top of a price/performance comparison site.
      No, nothing of that kind is usually even mentioned in advertisement. It's just manipulative emotion triggering. Like mobil

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Internet advertising industry has exhibited, over the last two decades, a consistent pattern of complete, active and malevolent indifference to the well-being of yourself, your computing equipment and your data. "Malvertising" is a term because of their laxity. Their representatives equate using ad blocking software with racism combined with a direct attack on freedom of speech, and other editorials equate it to actively causing children to starve and stealing. Otherwise useful parts of JavaScript ha

  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Friday January 26, 2018 @09:43PM (#56012627) Journal
    to always use FF, ad blockers and noscript.
  • >> created 28 fake ad agencies and bought over 1 billion ad views

    Sounds like SOP in national political campaigning.
  • by No Longer an AC ( 4611353 ) on Friday January 26, 2018 @10:10PM (#56012789) Journal

    It seems to me the ad agency was very real and they were doing what ad agencies do. I worked for an ad agency briefly. It was a fascinating experience but those people are experts at twisted thinking. Serving you malware is just a part of these very real ad agencies business plan.

    Ad agencies are supposed to influence you - or at least convince businesses that if they pay you they can influence your customers.

    “The consumer isn't a moron. She is your wife.”
      David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man

    That sounds terribly sexist, but I'm pretty sure Mad Men don't give a shit. They just have to imprint their brand in your head. And then beat the consumer with it so it becomes unthinkable that they might even consider a different brand.

    Coca Cola - it's simply the Rolls Royce of fizzy drinks! Wait, what? Shut up and buy it.

  • Why would anyone use an adblocker? Ads are innocuous. They are needed to deliver content.

    And malware.

    Why would anyone use an adblocker?

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Friday January 26, 2018 @11:02PM (#56012997)

    At this time, an ad-blocker must be considered a mandatory security precaution.

  • by duke_cheetah2003 ( 862933 ) on Saturday January 27, 2018 @01:24AM (#56013415) Homepage

    Tell everyone you know to use an adblocker. Show them how if necessary, train your fellows how to not click on ads and be aware of the status bar when hovering over links.

    Tell people to pay attention to address bar, be aware of where you are, and navigate away from questionable sites. Pay attention to security warnings if they happen, teach people to not be afraid to ask someone smarter to help if a security warning comes up.

    The majority of people browsing the net just aren't properly trained on how to avoid the pitfalls and evil lurking at every other link. Just help out, pass on your knowledge to as many as possible.

    • by mentil ( 1748130 )

      I installed adblockers on my parents' computers. They've never complained about websites not working, or about all the ads they're missing.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Yes no matter how much a site layers over the demands and requests to whitelist them, never turn off the no script and ad blockers.
  • I wonder if these aholes were responsible for the fake mozilla "Update Firefox" popups I would routinely get while on Yahoo email. The popup said to update Firefox by downloading and running a "firefox-patch.js". I started running firefox with the dev tools window open so that I could see the network traffic and track them down. The redirects were too convoluted for me to follow with my limited knowledge. Recent versions of firefox seem to have eliminated this problem.

    #include useless_AC_flames
  • by Somebody Is Using My ( 985418 ) on Saturday January 27, 2018 @10:06AM (#56014435) Homepage

    This is the sort of thing that attracts government attention. For years - over a decade! - people have been decrying advertisements as a vector for malware, and the industry has completely ignored it, offering any advert from its partners without checking its content. And just as predicted, we've had a stream of advertisements offering up malware, stealing people's information and infecting their computers. And still the industry has done nothing. Now you actually have criminal enterprises creating their own ad agencies to speed up the process.

    At some point - and I don't think that time is too far away - some government is going to step up and say, "enough is enough" and start regulating you. And it most likely will be done in the most ham-handed way possible, that will be good for neither your industry, your partners or the people viewing the ads. So clean up your fucking act before it gets to that point. Or shut the fuck up when government does finally clamp down, because you've had years and years and years of warning and opportunity to fix things and haven't done a god damned thing!

  • I drink milk because I like the taste. As a side benefit, it's rather healthy.

    I block ads because they're annoying.* As a side benefit, I'm protecting myself from shit like this.

    * Same reason that I used to get up and go to the bathroom or get a drink while ads played on TV before the WWW existed. Same reason I fast-forwarded over them when watching taped shows when VCRs were new. "Ad blocking" is nothing new. Marketers and publishers who get all pissy about it can go fuck themselves. I would like to find o

  • Why you should use them.

  • I suppose the ad agencies will never get it, and nor will websites that show their product. Either you're 100% liable for the damage wrought from malware spread from your servers (and then you might give a damn about making sure the ads are properly vetted), or sensible people will block the garbage your adserver outputs.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.