Malvertisers are boosting their Malware and Phishing scams

Malvertising and Phishing protection

In Q4 of this year cybercriminals were making the news headlines. Angling Direct's domain, website and social media accounts were compromised by hackers, redirecting users to an adult website; Electronics retailer MediaMarkt got hit by ransomware that demanded $240 million dollars after stopping its online shopping service in Belgium and the Netherlands. In Q3 AdSecure also saw some big spikes in user security violations as bad actors launched their Summer attacks. Malware detections increased by 1285.19% with the majority concentrated in July and August. Phishing detections also increased by 413.97%. Adware, Browser Locker and Scareware also increased 15.74%, 8.65% and 4.82% respectively, and now, in Q4 detections for these user security violations are still high. To demonstrate some tactics used by Cybercriminals, here are two examples of Malware and Phishing campaigns, both recently detected and stopped by AdSecure:

#1 Malware attack in Turkey

Cybercriminals used Discord's Content Delivery Network to host malicious payloads. Discord is a popular VoIP, instant messaging and digital distribution platform used by approximately 140 million people.

Users can organize Discord servers into topic-based channels in which they can share text or voice files. They can attach any type of file within the text-based channels, including images, document files, and executables. These files are stored on Discord's Content Delivery Network (CDN) servers. 

However, many files sent across the Discord platform are malicious, pointing to a significant amount of abuse of its self-hosted CDN by bad actors who create channels with the sole purpose of delivering these malicious files.

Malvertisers use infected campaigns to target online gamers, luring them into downloading fake versions of popular online games that actually contain malware. The image below is the landing page of one of these malware campaigns detected by AdSecure on 3 November 2021. As you can see the text is in English, only the month November (Karim) is in Turkish. Additionally note that egyptian gamers is spelt incorrectly.

Malware and Phishing protection

This campaign triggered an apk file that downloaded automatically to the user's desktop or mobile device. When we checked the auto-downloaded file we discovered that the file was detected as Trojan/Malware by 15 security vendors. 

Malware and Phishing protection

The files are often renamed as Gaming software or Google PlayStore games to trick end users, and the file stored on Discord's CDN used the link in the following format: https://cdn.discordapp[.]com/attachments/{ChannelID}/{AttachmentID}/{filename}

How did AdSecure detect the malware?

AdSecure’s Ad Discovery tool works by first detecting and then analysing all ads it encounters on web or mobile site pages, engaging with the ads as a user would, performing analysis both on the main site page, and by clicking on each ad — be it a banner, native, popup, popunder, etc — to detect any malicious activity a user might encounter in the redirection paths of this campaign and on any landing page the end users could be sent to. Once the violation was detected, AdSecure notified the client in real-time so the client's compliance teams could identify the campaign and ban the fraudulent advertiser from their ad network to prevent the bad actor from infecting more end users.

#2 Phishing scams using fake Lucky Draws

Phishing is often considered as the easiest way for financial gain for Cybercriminals. One method is through fake Lucky Draws from well known social media platforms. To show an example, AdSecure detected the following scam on an entertainment website in the United Arab Emirates in September. The ad showed up as a popunder. 

Malware and Phishing protection

The scammers used the Whatsapp logo and fake likes and comments on this landing page to fool end users into believing the lucky draw was legitimate. However, once the user spun the wheel to win a prize, they were asked to give away their personal information and credit card details to receive a prize. The victims only realized that they had been scammed after being informed by their banks about unauthorised transactions. The scammers also changed the URL 2 days later, to promote an adult dating offer. The landing page showed pornographic images which is illegal in United Arab Emirates.

How did AdSecure detect the phishing scam?
The client used AdSecure's API integration giving them a full malvertising and ad quality control system including the detection of adult content. Once the violation was detected, AdSecure's API integration allowed the client to reject, suspend or further monitor the ads, redirection paths and landing pages in real-time, giving the client full control over their ad supply chain. The ability to be able to use AdSecure’s Ad Classification tool enabled the client to detect that the malicious URL was displaying adult content, so it could be quickly removed from their ad supply chain, without which, it could have caused the website severe legal problems in their country as well as potentially for end users that viewed the pornographic landing page.

Conclusion

Cybercriminals use more sophisticated methods to lure unsuspecting end users into parting with personal and financial information via malware and phishing and other user security violations. With the ever increasing time that internet users spend online on a range of different devices, it is more important than ever to defend and protect end users against malvertisers. Publishers and ad networks have a duty to serve clean advertising and keep their end users safe. That is why it is essential that publishers and ad networks have a 360 degree ad security and ad quality solution like AdSecure as their first line of defense against cybercriminals.