30 May, 2022

Malvertising - How Injection Plugins Can Affect the Fate of Your Website Ads

Malvertising can have debilitating effects on an infected website. Thankfully, there are ways you can protect your website and ads from these malicious attacks
What is the purpose of website content? It's often used to promote a product or service. Many other website owners often look to monetize the specific content within their websites as well. Website owners looking to do this often do so by selling ads. While this is a common and often profitable practice, it doesn't come without risk. This is where malvertising comes in.

Hackers and other malicious actors have found ways to take advantage of those selling ad space on their sites. They do so with a specific kind of injection plugin that generates malicious ads. These ads appear harmless but can do significant damage to your website when left unchecked. They can impact how traffic flows to your website, affecting your bottom line.

These malicious ads - referred to as "malvertising" - can have a debilitating effect on the infected website. It can compromise data, erode the trust of site visitors, and eliminate the website owner's ability to monetize their ads. The worst part is that their sites are then blacklisted, further decreasing the chances of the site being successful.

Here's how malvertising can lead to blacklisting - and how, with enhanced detection - you can stop it.
How Malvertising Works
One of the easiest ways to monetize a website is by using search engines such as Google or Bing to include ads. These ads can appear as a banner on your site's header or on a sidebar. While you may not understand exactly how ad placement works, there's a process behind it.

Ad insertion can be implemented by embedding a JavaScript library. Another way is through simple CMS plugins. These both generate and insert ads by evaluating website visitor behavior. They can also use the website administrator's key to include ads.

In cases like this, the website owner often finds the ability to control the precise ads that are present on their site out of their hands. They're at the mercy of the plugin. That's part of advertising - depending on the type of program you sign up for, you may or may not be able to actually choose what is advertised on your site.

That's where malvertising does its dirty work. Malicious ads can use the injection plugins as a gateway to the site, corrupting it. While this compromises the site's security, it also has the added drawback of affecting the site's placement within search engines. There's a process known as blacklisting that can land your site in hot water and cost you countless visitors, impeding your site's traffic.
When Ad Placement Can Lead to Blacklisting
Putting ads on your site has plenty of benefits such as establishing another income stream. However, there are inherent risks as well. Platforms such as Google have evolved to proactively combat potential problems.

Ad networks from sites like Google often attempt to filter out any malicious or suspicious URLs that are presented as part of an injected ad. An example of this would be malicious ads in URLs for adult or spam content. Search engines are doing this as a proactive measure to protect visitors from ads lined with malicious code.

What happens as a result of this is that Google and other search engines blacklist some websites with plugins. They do this in the name of protecting their end-users, but sites can often suffer because of this. If your site has become a victim of malvertising, you're susceptible to this blacklisting.

Before understanding how to avoid this fate, it's worth it to better understand why blacklisting can be so damaging for your website.
Why You Want to Avoid Your Website Being Blacklisted
Search engine traffic is the lifeblood of many websites. It enables you to build your audience, both organically and through paid ads. It may not be the only component of your promotional strategy, but it likely plays a big role in your outreach efforts.

That's why blacklisting can have such a devastating effect. It can lead to a precipitous drop in traffic, which negatively impacts the site. Your existing customers or site visitors will be blocked from revisiting the site, blocking any repeat traffic or purchases. It will also limit the number of new audience members who can access your site, stalling the growth of your content's overall reach.

Think of your traffic like water and your website like a human body. When a person consumes water, they're able to function effectively. Cut off that access, and they'll begin to experience health problems. Cutting off traffic to your site is no different.

So what's the solution to this issue? You certainly don't want to remove ads from your site, as they can be a source of significant income for your website. But there is a way to keep your ad program intact while avoiding blacklisting.
How to Maintain Your Ads and Avoid Blacklisting?
Every site owner strives to keep their ads on their site while avoiding search engine blacklists. The best way to do that is through a combination of proactive and reactive measures - and the best way to instill those is by partnering with a provider of website security services with experience in this area.

Enter Quttera's ThreatSign! platform. ThreatSign provides client-side (outside-in) and server-side (inside-out) monitoring, scanning your website recursively. ThreatSign will verify all detected URLs against a blacklisting database. Should ThreatSign uncover a blacklisted or malicious URL, the platform generates an alert letting you know it has been detected on your website.

Simply put, ThreatSign provides you with the knowledge, awareness, and tools you'll need to monitor and respond to the presence of any improper URLs that would lead to blacklisting. Having this knowledge will help you stay off of blacklists, clearing the flow of traffic to your site via Google and other popular search engines.

Ultimately, malvertising is a real problem and the responsibility is on both ad networks and publishing sites to stay on top of it. By partnering with ThreatSign, you can do your part to avoid blacklisting, continue to generate profits, and encourage traffic.
So take the necessary action now to improve your website security and fight malvertising - sign up for ThreatSign to protect your website and avoid malicious ads.