Security Experts:

Malvertising Spikes in Q4 2010, Average Campaign Lifetime Declines

According to recent statistics coming from Dasient, a firm that helps discover and combat Web-based malware, “malvertising,” a growing method used to distribute malware via advertising tags served through an unsuspecting publisher’s Web site, saw a significant spike in Q4 2010. Dasient estimated that in the last quarter of 2010 there was a 25% increase in malvertising [ad] impressions based on the same set of networks the company monitored in Q3.

According to estimates from Dasient’s Q4 Malware Update, 1.1 Million Web sites were infected with malware in Q4 2010. There is a silver lining, however, as Dasient statistics revealed the average lifetime of a malvertising campaign dropped for the second consecutive quarter in a row -- down to an average of 9.8 days, as compared to 11.1 days in Q3, and 11.8 in Q2. Cybercriminals, prefer to conduct their malvertisng attacks on weekends, a time when ad trafficking and IT departments tend to be slower to identify and respond to the attacks, a trend that appears to be consistent for obvious reasons.

Other Key Figures from the Dasient's Q4 Malware Update:

• The top attacker domain was ipq. co, which is a free DNS forwarding service. In a effort to hide and reduce the cost of executing their attacks, cybercriminals are abusing DNS forwarding services, such as ipq.co.

• After three months of Web browsing, the probability that an average Internet user will hit an infected page is approximately 95%.

• Most Web malware attacks use a relatively small group of common exploits, as shown below, based on a study of the most commonly used exploit kit

• Most social media networks are prone to being used as distribution platforms for malware. Dasient conducted experiments across various social networking sites, and found that infections can occur relatively easily through them via user-generated-content (UGC) interactions and advertisements.

A recent incident with the London Stock Exchange Web Site serving ads from an ad network that had been serving malvertising ads and thus flagged by google as malicious, shows the damage that can be done to a brand as a result. While the London Stock Exchange didn’t technically serve malware, it was serving ads from servers that were, which caused it to be flagged as a threat to most users attempting to visit the site.

“Financial Web sites are just as, and in some cases more likely, to use ads and ad-related resources as per a study we issued mid-last year on structural vulnerabilities. Forty-two percent (42%) of financially-oriented web sites use ads and ad-related resources, sometimes as an additional revenue stream and sometimes to manage "house" ads,” Dasient co-founder and CTO Neil Daswani told SecurityWeek. “Financial institutions have to protect themselves from malvertising in addition to other forms of web malware, to an extent even more so than other types of sites. When a financial institution's web sites gets flagged by search engines and browsers, and users start seeing "red-screens-of-death," it can result in a loss of trust and consumer confidence, in addition to brand damage.”

More insights from Dasient’s Q4 Malware update can be found here.

Related Reading: Malware Rising - Attacks Increasing Through Malicious Online Advertising

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For more than 10 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring the threat landscape and analyzing trends in the National Security and enterprise cybersecurity space. In his role at SecurityWeek, he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and is the Director of several leading security industry conferences around the world.