Hacked advertising platform sent users to the Nuclear exploit kit

The company affected, Mad Ads Media, was quick to investigate, Trend Micro said

A suspected malicious advertising attack turned out to be a much deeper compromise of an online advertising company, according to Trend Micro.

The security company found that advertisements served by Mad Ads Media, based in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, redirected to websites hosting an exploit kit, which probed users' computers for software flaws in order to deliver malware. The number of people affected peaked at 12,500 on May 2, Trend said.

At first, the incident appeared to be another example of malvertising, wrote Joseph Chen, a fraud researcher with Trend. Advertising networks have occasionally seen malicious ads uploaded to their networks that redirect people to other malicious websites.

A closer examination found that a Mad Ads Media server used to deliver advertisements had been modified, specifically a JavaScript library which assigns advertisements to a particular site. Instead, the library was coded to redirect users to servers hosting the Nuclear exploit kit, Chen wrote.

The websites that were targeted for redirection had manga and anime content. Mad Ads Media serves more than 10,000 websites worldwide and delivers eight billion ad impressions, according to its website.

Mad Ads Media officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but Chen wrote the company "was quick to investigate and take action."

If a user is redirected to the Nuclear exploit kit, it attempts to see if their browser is running an outdated version of Adobe Systems' Flash multimedia program. If that attack was successful, the infamous Carberp malware was installed, which is designed to steal authentication credentials.

Although ad companies try to filter malicious ones out, hackers will often swap out ads that have passed a security check for ones that haven't in the hope that the company won't catch it. Such attacks can be very productive, as a malicious ad displayed on several high-profile sites can mean a greater pool of potential victims.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Using artificial intelligence to surprise your customers

​We have expected artificial intelligence (AI) will become part of our everyday lives for quite some time.

Katja Forbes

Founder and chief, sfyte

Is customer segmentation dead?

Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, announced the death of customer segmentation five years ago saying, "The shift is to go from the segment to the individual. She might have been a bit premature for most marketers, but if customer segmentation isn't dead yet, it's definitely on life support.

Richard Taylor

Senior digital strategist, Spinach

How people buy brands

Andrew Ehrenberg was a giant in the field of marketing science. He believed scientific methods could reveal law-like patterns of how people buy. In this post, I summarise one of Ehrenberg’s most important discoveries and its implications on how people buy brands.

Kyle Ross

Strategist, TRP

What a great article. Thanks for sharing. Today Digital Marketing is the basic need for a business to survive. As online presence is very...

Ecomsolver Private Limited

Want to master digital transformation? Stop thinking about your own problems

Read more

Feeling grateful that customer led digital transformation could improve business and generate more business growth. Many companies are no...

Lilly Lawrence

How a customer-led digital transformation has helped this CMO generate $6m in incremental business

Read more

If a business games me happy than there is a higher chance I will go to them.

Martinez

The Iconic: becoming customer-focussed transformed our business

Read more

That’s a great example of surprising AR ad that went viral because it was first of its kind. Probably a similar effect to some scale can ...

Natasha Kvitka

Using artificial intelligence to surprise your customers

Read more

Hey there! it is a really meaningful post. I too have written a few similar articles about SEM, SEO, Social Media, Digital Marketing Tren...

Rohit

Digital advertising continues to dominate marketing budgets

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in