Uncommon protocols are very annoying to end users because they can lead to automatic prompts to open or send a message in Facetime or via SMS, launch Skype calls, or automatically open apps like iTunes without the user consenting to the action.Continue reading
The effective use of residential proxies is key to stopping one of the most evasive attack methods cyber criminals can deploy: ad cloaking via IP blacklisting.Continue reading
Welcome to Inside AdSecure, our ongoing series that dives into different aspects of the platform, to ensure our partners always get the most out of our solution.
In this installment we're looking at an easily enabled function that allows for a deeper level of analysis of the user experience when they opt to engage fully with banner and native ads: the click-on button.
The Fundamentals: What happens to the user post-click?
While many attacks injected within a banner creative can trigger without proactive engagement from users visiting the website where the bad ad is displayed, some attacks are more deceptive, hiding their attacks on the other side of the ad after the user has engaged and clicked on the banner. Once an infected ad has been clicked, attacks can happen at multiple points within the complete redirection path, leaving the user hit with a nasty malware to deal with, or a phishing URL extracting their personal and financial details.
However it's not just banners that can have this sort of fraud hiding on the post-click side of the ad. This is exactly the same technique that is used when fraudsters launch malicious threats within Native ads, and it is highly effective. Native ads have become very popular as a format because they are less intrusive than other banners and pops, and flow with the other content on the site. This leads to a higher click rates from users, and it's when they engage by clicking on the native ad where they can fall victim to a redirection hijack that sends them to a malicious page, a ransomware attack, or any other number of digital threats.
The Pro-tip: Enable the click-on feature for complete insights into the user journey
AdSecure's click-on button couldn't be easier to enable for any projects that are monitoring native ad campaigns, where it is crucial to explore what happens post-click continuously, or for projects analysing your banner ad campaigns where you want to know if there is something dangerous waiting for the user on the other side.
To enable the click on projects created manually within the AdSecure user interface, you can do this easily during the initial project set up by enabling the click-on button located just above the proxy location options in the set-up window, as seen below.
Should you decide that you want to add the click to an already existing project, you can always open the project and enable the click function at any time while the project is running.
Once the project has been submitted and the analysis complete, the report AdSecure generates detailing the analysis will include a page that details the results both for the initial scan of the ad and the results for the post-click content here. You can easily toggle through each report to get insights on every step in the redirection path by clicking on each option.
Clicking on native ads is THE best way to ensure the end users engaging with these ads remain safe while doing so, and it provides an extra layer of security for your banner ad campaigns by uncovering what could be waiting on the other side of the interaction.
If you would like additional support with how best to utilise our click-on feature within your projects, please contact us at email@example.com
Welcome to Inside AdSecure! This is the first article in a new ongoing series. For this first installment we are taking a look at one of three options you can use to be notified in real-time whenever AdSecure uncovers violations lurking within your ad campaigns: the callback URL.Continue reading
We analysed over 200,000 ad campaigns across multiple GEOs, devices and browsers between 1st January to 31st March, check out our findings and insights into cyber-criminal behaviour during Q1.Continue reading
Dublin, 13 May 2019. AdSecure has formed a new partnership with global ad network Traffic Factory to be their ad security technology provider and drive the continued safety of their network.
AdSecure's innovative technology will scan ad campaigns for suspicious activity before they launch on Traffic Factory's network and then further analyse those campaigns while they are live. Suspicious activity can range from quality issues that damage the user experience, such as auto-redirects, back button hijacks, and auto-downloads, to harmful user security threats like malware, browser lockers, phishing URLs, and ransomware. AdSecure will provide constant detection and notification for these and many other digital threats for Traffic Factory, allowing them to immediately halt the offending campaigns and take the appropriate action to maintain user security and provide an amazing experience, every time.
Takanori Kanto, Sales Director at Traffic Factory commented, "It is with great pleasure that we announce our official partnership with AdSecure, a disruptive new force within the field of ad verification and the fight against malvertising. This collaboration will continue to ensure that our network is 100% secure for both publishers on our network and of course, their end users."
Bryan Taylor, Sales Manager at AdSecure added, "We are delighted to come together with Traffic Factory to launch this great new partnership. Traffic Factory serve over 6 billion daily impressions, and the integration of our ad security solution on Traffic Factory's network ensures that we can work together to protect millions of internet users from today's most modern and pernicious digital threats, and solidify the security of the ads served to Traffic Factory's premium quality traffic sources.
AdSecure provides constant detection and notification of security, compliance & quality issues within the digital ad supply chain. To find out how AdSecure can provide protection for your online business visit www.adsecure.com
TrafficFactory is a global provider of high quality traffic. We've harnessed the most up-to-date, accurate Geo-targeting technology , and combined with our Real-Time Bidding model, our clients get the high quality traffic they deserve at a price they can feel good about. To learn more, please visit the site www.trafficfactory.com
For further press information
It should come as no surprise to anyone involved in the digital advertising ecosystem that fraudsters are always looking for new methods to target users with sophisticated digital attacks. As soon as innovative new ways of engaging with users are developed, cyber criminals aren't far behind with a method for exploiting these innovations, particularly when there's money to be made. Now, as push notification ads grow in popularity, a new threat to user security that capitalises on the push notification flow itself has arrived: push lockers.
Upon identifying these push notification specific lockers, between February and March AdSecure saw a 563% increase in the detection of browser locker attacks, and at the time of writing this article, we have protected our partners from more than 20 unique push lockers in under 24 hours.
What is a push notification ad?
Push notification ads are simple clickable messages, accompanied by a small image, that are delivered to desktop browsers or mobile devices, but only once a user has consented to receiving them. This is a key point, as the users have agreed to see the ads, leaving the perception that they are less intrusive than traditional formats, and develop a higher level of engagement from the user.
Push notifications work by displaying an initial permission request — managed by the browser — when a user is visiting a site for the first time. Once the user agrees to receive these push notifications, they will receive them based on the frequency set out by the publisher. Should a user opt not to see push notifications, the browser logs this choice as well, and they won't be asked to subscribe to them again.
What is a push locker?
The push notification format, while relatively new, is growing in popularity within the online marketplace for all the reasons mentioned previously: users have to opt-in to see them at all, and with that consent comes a higher rate of engagement. Brands using push notifications are seeing increased click through rates, and just as marketers are seeing the clear benefits the format provides, cyber criminals are becoming wise to the potential for driving malicious campaigns straight to users screens. What has developed out of these sinister intentions is a new form of browser locker specifically designed around the natural behaviour of a push ad.
How do push lockers work?
When you make the choice to opt-in, or out, of receiving push notifications on a particular site, the browser manages the request and saves the choice. However, it's the way the browser saves this choice — either by domain, or subdomain — that can expose the user to trouble. What happens if you opt out, but the website redirects you automatically to another subdomain? Can you guess what's coming? This allows the user to be prompted again to accept the push notification. So naturally, you decline this new request, and then you're sent to yet another subdomain and asked again, and again, and again. Suddenly you are trapped in an endless looping push notification nightmare, and escape can only be had by giving in and "consenting" to receive the push notification.
Incredibly annoying, right? But this is tame compared to what other push lockers are capable of.
What type of push lockers has AdSecure encountered?
Since first discovering this new form of attack, our development team went on the hunt, uncovering various types of push lockers. In one particularly sophisticated case, users clicking somewhere on the page other than the buttons to allow or block the push would cause the browser to switch to full screen mode, preventing the user from doing anything else until they accepted the push notification, which in turn leads them to a scam offer, or the forced download of malware, or similar security threat. In a separate case, we encountered a push locker that kept users locked on the consent page until they accepted the push, all the while quietly mining cryptocurrencies in the background. Those who opted in were then redirected to a new offer page which also launched the cryptocurrency miner, leaving the user with no safe option to take.
When this type of push locker is implemented on a mobile browser, the entire device is rendered useless for the owner, again until they are forced to consent. In all cases, the looping push notification locks the user into an action they absolutely do not want to take, and puts them at severe risk of exposure to exploit flaws or other security breaches.
What is the solution?
The relative speed at which push lockers have appeared on the scene has caught some ad verification providers off guard. They either weren't aware of the problem quickly enough, or they aren't using the modern technology needed to detect push lockers with any degree of consistency and precision.
Push lockers are sophisticated and pernicious, and in order to catch them early and often, the scanning technology being used needs to be based on the most modern browser technology available. This is one of the reasons AdSecure — with a crawler powered by Chrome — was the first ad verification provider to uncover these looping push notifications, and continues to be the only provider catching them at high frequency, and a strong level of precision.
As more publishers and ad platforms begin to work with the push notification ad format, push locker attacks will spread across the digital ads landscape. Make sure your partners are working with an ad verification provider that has the resources and the knowledge needed to track down push lockers and keep them from hurting digital users.
AdSecure empowers ad platforms & publishers to take back control of their ad quality by providing constant detection & notification for ad security, compliance, and quality issues within the digital ad supply chain.
To learn more about how AdSecure is driving a safer digital world for everyone, contact us today.
Barcelona, 12 March 2019. EXOGROUP, the digital technology enterprise business group, today announced it is making a further significant investment in its online ad verification technology company AdSecure. AdSecure was launched in 2017 to provide ad networks and publishers with ad scanning technology to ensure safe, compliant and malware free ad delivery.
EXOGROUP's further investment of 1 million euros will be used to build more features for the AdSecure platform, grow the existing team and invest in marketing and sales strategies to continue to grow AdSecure's business.
EXOGROUP's CEO and Founder Benjamin Fonzé commented, "Ad networks and Publishers face many challenges in today's market. It is of paramount importance that the end user is protected from cybercriminal activity. AdSecure is constantly developing new AI technologies that intercept any suspicious activity hidden deep within online ad formats, be it in the creatives, ad formats or advertiser landing pages."
"The impact of malicious attacks on end users can have negative effects on business growth, profit and customer confidence. It's important that businesses have the tools available to stop end users being exploited by unscrupulous people who are looking for any opportunity to steal or misuse personal and confidential information as well as hijacking a users devices for malicious means."
"85% of Internet users prefer an ad-supported free Internet therefore it is the duty of all platforms to ensure that those users are fully protected. Our further investment in AdSecure is EXOGROUPs commitment to keeping the internet safe for all users."
AdSecure currently offers a comprehensive range of features that ad networks and publishers can utilise including:
Intelligent Scanning: Crawler technology that automatically scans ad tags, smart links, landing pages, programmatic RTB campaigns and native ads.
Fully automated platform: Easy integration with our powerful API.
Robust detection: Ensuring ads are compliant with client guidelines with extensive detection coverage.
Multi-targeting: Protection from cloaking practices and using behavioral targeting techniques, checking from multiple browsers, devices and locations including residential and mobile carrier IPs to ensure compliant ad delivery and advertiser landing pages.
Instant detection notifications: Whenever a violation is detected, AdSecure generates real-time notification alerts via a callback url or email. The notification provides advanced reports with forensic grade information and detail.
Spy tool: Access every single report, regardless of the detection outcome, allowing a deeper level of forensic analysis thanks to the complete ad redirection chain provided.
AdSecure intelligence: Real-time response feature applied to AdSecure's historical dataset allowing malicious domain blocking.
Ad performance: Monitor the horsepower of ads to stop SEO penalisation from slow ads, and regain control of website performance
AdSecure is committed to providing our partners with a higher level of transparency, choice, and control when evaluating the health and security of their digital supply chain and eliminating malicious digital threats. This is why we are very pleased to announce the launch of a new, dedicated detection option: Suspicious TLD (Top-level domain).
Top-level domains (TLDs) — such as .com, .org, and .edu — are the most prominent domains on the internet, and we have all spent time on a .com domain. You're reading this on one right now.
While domain names are a key aspect of building a strong online identity, they can also be targeted for abuse by cybercriminals looking to set up hosts for a plethora of dangerous schemes. Spamming, scamming, phishing attacks, malware distribution, and other suspicious activity can often be found lurking on sites with TLDs that look somewhat… unusual.
Enter the Suspicious TLD – top level domains far less familiar to everyday internet users, and frequently weaponized by online scam-artists and threat actors for profit.
Suspicious TLDs — domains ending with things like .xyz, .gq, .country, .stream, — are popular with cybercriminals because they are usually cheaper to obtain than more universally recognised TLDs. This allows the bad guys to register a chain of highly similar top-level domains (like abcd1.xyz, abcd2.xyz, abcd3.xyz) and spread their malicious attacks continuously. When one domain is flagged and shut down, just move your attack to the next one.
Despite the brief lifespan of a Suspicious TLD, their potential impact on the digital ecosystem can ripple far and wide. These domains also pose a unique challenge for dealing with them, because while many have malicious activity lying in wait, many are perfectly clean.
As AdSecure's Technical Director, Pierre Brouca, points out "the issue with a suspicious domain, like .xyz is that there can be completely safe activity on some, while others are definitely being used to spread malware, or a phishing attack. You also have cases like .xin, which in certain regions will definitely be a suspicious domain, but in China, will be a common TLD used legitimately. Being able to understand not only that the domain is suspicious, but that it also has a serious violation attached to it, makes ad delivery more efficient, saving both time and money for our partners."
The paradoxical nature of these TLDs has led other ad verification providers to group them all in the same violation bucket as malware, even when the ad is legitimately harmless. This lack of clarity leads to ads being halted without cause, a loss of time and money tackling a non-issue, and potential friction between publishers and advertisers.
AdSecure brings a clear, precise approach to this challenge by introducing a completely separate, fully dedicated violation classification for "Suspicious TLD". This gives our partners a transparent view of both the suspicious domain and what might — or might not — be lurking within, as our scan reports will also flag separately each additional violation attached to the ad campaign.
With a complete view of what's really happening within Suspicious TLDs, choice and control over how to proceed is returned, and our partners can confidently take the action that is best for their business.
AdSecure's new dedicated detection for Suspicious TLD will be available to all partners as of the 31st of January. To learn more, click here
Within the digital advertising ecosystem the challenge of securing ad creatives against malicious threats has historically taken a back seat to the bigger, "louder" problem of ad fraud. The impact invalid traffic has on the digital supply chain is often easier for stakeholders to get their heads around, leaving malvertising as a "quiet" problem that has allowed threat actors to fly under the radar and profit from the ensuing damage.
In 2015 an IAB report found an overall US$1.1 billion cost impact on digital advertising from malvertising attacks. Despite being less immediately visible, the problem of creative compliance is not new, and since 2015 attacks have scaled in lockstep with the digital ad ecosystem.
That's the bad news. The good news is that awareness of the problem – and the resolve to fight it – has also grown. The quiet problem is finding its voice.
With programmatic exchanges making creative compliance a key pillar of their programmatic principles, and Google taking a near zero tolerance approach to abusive ads with the launch of Chrome 71, the focus on delivering clean, compliant creatives has sharpened dramatically. For publishers — and the networks and exchanges they partner with — the cost of inaction will soon become too high to ignore.
AdSecure has identified 3 problems that we expect to trend throughout 2019 and the best solutions to face them head on, and win.
Programmatic & Mobile ad spend: threat actors follow the money
The rise of programmatic ad spend continued throughout 2018, and in 2019 an estimated 65% of all money spent on digital ads will be traded programmatically. Advertisers will spend US$84 billion on programmatic advertising this year, and by 2020 the total is expected to rise to US$98 billion. The money flowing programmatically is massive, and there's one certainty when discussing malicious activity: follow the money.
More money, more malicious problems. Everything swells in programmatic, creating an ideal breeding ground for dangerous attacks. With publishers losing visibility and control over exactly who is buying traffic, the question of facing malicious activity becomes a matter of when, rather than if.
Similarly, mobile ad spend comprised a staggering 75% of all digital ad spending in 2018, and that growth will continue in 2019. The amount of money involved in mobile advertising is like catnip for criminals. In November 2018, a malware campaign targeting iOS devices managed to hijack an astounding 300 million browser sessions within 48 hours. The culprit behind that attack is still active today.
The AdSecure Solution:
For publishers, negating the damage wrought by malvertising attacks on programmatic campaigns means taking back control to protect both visitors and the revenue streams that fuel the creation of new, engaging content. Trusted partners that embrace the need for transparency and a commitment to delivering clean, malware free programmatic campaigns are a must.
Working with partners who collaborate with dedicated ad verification vendors capable of scanning programmatic campaigns to detect malicious attacks is the best solution. Should ad networks and exchanges not show a willingness to provide that solution, publishers can take on a dedicated service directly, and possibly reconsider their future partner relationships.
With the power mobile campaigns hold in today's digital advertising landscape, particularly those campaigns running on carrier networks, an anti-malvertising provider that enables their clients to scan campaigns across a global mobile carrier proxy network is key, as is being sure that you decide which campaigns are scanned using mobile carrier proxies, and the frequency. Control needs to be in your hands.
Ad Cloaking & IP Blacklisting: sleight of hand from cyber criminals
Threat actors are clever, and quite inventive when it comes to bypassing ad operations teams searching for bad ads. In order to avoid scrutiny, or risk their attack being stopped before the damage can be done, criminals often resort to ad cloaking via IP blacklisting. Once they have identified those IPs they want to avoid, they are added to a blacklist, which will then present the flagged IPs with a clean ad while the dangerous content creeps along to the intended target.
Some schemes go so far as blacklisting all standard datacentre proxies in a target location, making it difficult for a scanning solution that relies on these proxies alone to detect cloaked attacks. In this scenario, even a dedicated verification tool will be fooled into allowing dangerous attacks to slip through.
The AdSecure Solution:
What if you could take from cyber criminals their ability to know just which IPs to blacklist, but also nullify the benefits of blacklisting altogether? It's entirely possible with the right approach to proxy coverage. Scanning ad creatives using an intricate network of Residential IPs makes it virtually impossible for an attacker to determine which IPs to blacklist, while making it counterproductive to do so, as these IPs belong to the very users they are looking to target.
Ad cloaking is a growing concern for many ad networks looking to protect their reputations for clean ad delivery and instill confidence in their publishing partners, but with an innovative approach to proxy usage it's a concern that they can safely say they have covered.
Cryptojacking: a drain on (other people's) resources
Cryptojacking is growing because it's easy money and relatively simple to use, even for those low on tech savvy. Cryptojacking is seen as less risky and more profitable than ransomware as it continuously generates income. It is also far more difficult to uncover than ransomware, lowering the fear of being caught.
One way to implement a cryptojacking program is by injecting a script into a digital ad or website. Once a user visits the infected site, or encounters the ad carrying the cryptominer the script is executed, leaving the user blissfully unaware.
This differs from typical malvertising attacks as there is no obvious damage to the user. It does, however, put a massive drain on the CPU of the users device. For individuals this can be annoying, but for a large organisation infected by a cryptojacking script, the costs of detecting and resolving performance issues, or replacing equipment can have a detrimental impact.
The AdSecure Solution:
Scan your creatives early, and often. When looking at dedicated solutions for scanning ad campaigns and detecting suspicious behaviour, a tool that gives you the ability to scan in large volumes will be most effective in protecting users from falling victim to a cryptominer that kills their devices over time.
One final thought: The importance of transparency and trust in your ad tech partners
Digital is unique in that the seller of traffic is responsible for what appears on their site, so ultimately it's the publisher who gets the blame when something malicious is delivered to their visitors. That duty of care to the consumer means working with partners who understand the weight of that responsibility.
Transparency and trust are key in safeguarding users from harm. Partnering with compliance experts who bring a full spectrum approach to tackling malicious activity, and know that rather than holding control over protection tools and obscuring when they are used — and how often — it's through empowering clients to take back control of ad creative quality that will ultimately lead to the creation of a secure digital advertising ecosystem.
AdSecure provides creative security solutions that empower our partners to take back control and keep their ads safe. We provide solutions for programmatic & mobile campaign scanning, and robust protection against ad cloaking & IP blacklisting via our innovative residential proxy model. Click here to learn more.