Beware of “Malvertising” Scams When Surfing Online



Savvy consumers may be familiar with “malware,” which is short for malicious software. They also may know never to click on unfamiliar or suspicious links, attachments, or pop-up windows to avoid malware. However, today’s technology presents us with a danger that is not so easy to recognize or avoid: “malvertising,” or malicious advertising.

Malvertising occurs when what appears to be a legitimate online advertisement is actually dangerous malware. Many times, people believe that legitimate websites will show only legitimate advertisements, but that is not always the case. In cases of malvertising, scammers pay the website as if their ad is legitimate, when, in reality, the ad is malware. Often, the malware is what is known as “ransomware,” which can lock a computer or mobile device and demand payment to regain access to the device.

Consumers can take steps to protect themselves from malvertising such as:

  • Install protective software. Some anti-virus programs provide protection against malware that can find its way onto your computer through security holes or malicious actors.
  • Keep your operating system, plug-ins, and internet browsers up to date.  Installing updates and security patches for your operating system, plug-ins (such as Flash and Java), and internet browsers will make your device less susceptible to malvertising. You may want to have your computer or other device automatically update these programs.
  • Consider installing an ad blocker. While many legitimate businesses run online advertisements, an ad blocker may help eliminate some of the threats caused by malvertising. However, consumers may need to disable the ad blocker to fully utilize some websites they wish to visit.

Beyond this advice, simply following general smart computing tips can help you avoid entire websites and sections of the internet that are designed to cause harm to your digital device.

If you suspect a scam or unfair business practice, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-282-0515 or visiting www.OhioProtects.org.

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