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How malvertising trends compare in the US vs South Asia in Q1 2023

By a.quiroga

May 18, 2023

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In April 2023 we examined Malvertising Trends for Q1 to provide ad networks and publishers with useful insights into how malvertisers operate around the world. Now, to continue giving you key information and tools to increase ad security in order to protect your end user against bad ads, we want to show you more in detail what we discovered with USA malvertising trends and South Asia malvertising trends during this same period. The latest USA cyber criminal activity and the latest South Asian cyber criminal activity, accounted for 28.5% of all violations detected during the first quarter of 2023, with 12.7% detections being from the US, and 15.8% from South Asia.

The top 5 violations detected in the US across all categories in Q1 2023 were:

Top 1: Threat-intelligence

Top 2: Ssl-non-compliant

Top 3: Suspicious-tld

Top 4: Back-button-hijack

Top 5: Landing-page-error

The top 5 online threats detected in South Asia across all categories in Q1 2023 were:

Top 1: Ssl-non-compliant

Top 2: Threat-intelligence

Top 3: Suspicious-tld

Top 4: Back-button-hijack

Top 5: Javascript-dialog-on-entry

‘28.6% of scans in the US vs. 26.7% scans in South Asia detected User Security violations.’

User Security detections are violations that could seriously compromise the security of the end user, potentially exposing personal and sensitive information to cybercriminals, and even causing substantial monetary losses! We compared the US and South Asia’s top 5 malvertising trends within this category during Q1 2023.

The Top 5 User Security Violations in the US were:

Top 1: Ssl-non-compliant

Top 2: Malicious-url

Top 3: Cryptocurrency-miner

Top 4: Scareware

Top 5: Phishing-url-webrisk

The Top 5 User Security violations in South Asia were:

Top 1: Ssl-non-compliant

Top 2: Malicious-url

Top 3: Browser-locker

Top 4: Phishing-url-webrisk

Top 5: Scareware

Insight: The most common User Security online threat detected was ssl-non-compliant, with 74.1% of violations recorded in the US vs. 80.9% of violations recorded in South Asia. Ssl-non-compliant detections are malicious ads that contain at least one unsecured item in their chain of resources, whether it is an unsafe link lacking encryption, no https, mixed content, a ssl version, or a cipher mismatch. This could result in the end user’s security being compromised, but also in the ad itself being blocked by Google and flagged as unsafe, which can become a huge problem for the hosting website’s reputation!

‘27.3% of scans in the US vs. 32.4% scans in South Asia detected User Experience violations.’

User Experience violations affect end users with malicious and annoying activity within the ad campaigns they interact with. Bad ads and online threats detected within this category could represent an issue for website publishers, since their end users could become annoyed and leave the website, leading to a damaged brand reputation and decreased revenues. Also, Google could rank them down because of the annoying and potentially harmful activity detected on their ads.

The Top 5 User Experience malvertising trends in the US were:

Top 1: Back-button-hijack

Top 2: Landing-page-error

Top 3: Javascript-dialog-on-entry

Top 4: Permission-notification

Top 5: Uncommon-protocols

The Top 5 User Experience violations in South Asia were:

Top 1: Back-button-hijack

Top 2: Javascript-dialog-on-entry

Top 3: Landing-page-error

Top 4: Permission-notification

Top 5: Auto-redirect and auto-redirect-app-market

Insight: Auto-redirect and auto-redirect-app-market were more popular in South Asia than in the US, with +119.8% more auto-redirect detections in South Asia than in the US, and +62.3% auto-redirect-app-market detections, respectively. This is once again an online threat detected by AdSecure that could become a problem for the website publisher’s brand reputation, since it sends end users to an unwanted landing page, or an app store. Besides, some malvertisers use this violation to redirect end users to destinations containing phishing scams. End users in Tier 3 GEOs tend to have access to older devices that aren’t as secure as newer ones, which could be the reason why cybercriminals in South Asia are more drawn to use this detection.

‘44% of scans in the US vs. 40.8% scans in South Asia detected User Advisory violations.’

The User Advisory category covers malvertising trends to be cautious of, as they could indicate offensive material that isn’t appropriate for all audiences, or the potential for suspicious or fraudulent activity.

The Top 5 User Advisory violations in the US were:

Top 1: Threat-intelligence 

Top 2: Suspicious-tld

Top 3: Unsafe-content-adult

Top 4: Ad-crypto

Top 5: IAB-ad-dimensions

The Top 5 violations in South Asia were:

Top 1: Threat-intelligence

Top 2: Suspicious-tld

Top 3: Unsafe-content-adult

Top 4: Ad-crypto

Top 5: Iab-ad-dimensions

Insight: 13.2% of all User Advisory detections in the US vs 11.6% in South Asia were unsafe-content-adult, accounting for +13.7% more detections in the US than in South Asia. Unsafe-content-adult shows unrequested offensive material to the end user, no matter their age. It may contain elements showing explicit nudity or sexual activities. Adult content in some South Asian GEOs is illegal. For instance, adult content is strictly prohibited in Bhutan, and also, the government of Bangladesh blocked nearly 20,000 porn websites access back in 2018, and India has strong rules against the publishing, transmission, distribution and sale of adult content. Content of this nature can be severely censored or punished, from huge pay fines, all the way to prison penalties, so using AdSecure’s unsafe-content-adult detection to scan campaigns for adult content in GEOs where it is illegal could benefit publishers from possible prosecution.

IAB Standard detections

Adhering to IAB Standards is crucial for a great user experience, increasing engagement and improving ad campaign conversion, ultimately maximizing revenue. Not complying with Industry Standards can negatively impact website performance for publishers, causing a less than ideal user experience that reduces the likelihood of ad clicks and ultimately impacts eCPMs. Also, Google can penalize or block websites that fail to meet weight and quality standards, making it crucial for both ad networks and publishers to take ad quality seriously! Here are the IAB online threats detected by AdSecure across South Asia and the US:

- Iab-ad-dimensions flags ads that are not compliant with the IAB Standards in terms of ad dimensions. 40.2% violations within the category in South Asia were Iab-ad-dimensions, which is +61.7% more detections than in the US.

Iab-ad-weight detects ads that are too heavy and are not compliant in terms of weight (initial load and sub-load). 25.8% violations detected in South Asia were Iab-ad-weight, +68.9% more than in the US.

- Iab-ad-compression flags ads that are not delivered in a compressed format. 25.5% of all detections within the category in South Asia are Iab-ad-compression, +78.4% more detections than in the US.

- Iab-ad-request-count flags ads that are not compliant with the IAB standards in terms of ad request count. IAB recommends a maximum of 10 requests, with 8.4% iab-ad-request-count violations detected within the category in South Asia, which is +22.7% more than in the US.

Generally speaking, tier 3 GEOs don’t tend to have as many regulations when it comes to online advertising and Industry Standards, which explains why IAB related detections were more popular in South Asia in Q1 2023.

Conclusion: Detect malvertising trends with AdSecure

Are you an ad network or a publisher looking for an industry best tool to keep their ad supply chain and end users safe from bad ads? Adsecure allows you to monitor your ad campaigns pre and post launch, block threats, and reject or suspend malicious ads to help you avoid a negative online experience and keep all parties safe, whilst protecting yours and your clients’ online brand reputation. Contact us now to learn more!

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