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 CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

​ Creating a purpose-driven brand

So you want to be a brand with purpose. But what does it actually mean to build a brand with real meaning?

Paul Chappell

Partner and managing director, Brand + Story

Customer experience crisis: Proactively mitigating the risk of broken promises

Last Friday, three weeks after United Airline’s spectacular customer experience disaster, customers received a letter from the company’s CEO, Oscar Munoz.

The politics of branding

There have been some real doozies lately. I’m speaking of campaigns where brands have dipped their toe in - or jump straight into the deep end – of the political spectrum, aligning with social causes that seem to be the flavour of the day.

Paul Chappell

Partner and managing director, Brand + Story

Thank you Shane Blandford for carrying my Smarketing vision into KM !

Peter Strohkorb

​CMO Interview: Why aligning sales and marketing drives innovation at Konica Minolta

Read more

Thanks for helping me putting those threads of thoughts together. Simplification and connection - neat idea.

Mark Bayly

Tips from IAG on how to craft human-centred design

Read more

The problem with Box is that they made a couple of big mistakes - they first hired a bunch of unprepared kids and gave them big roles and...

Tim Woods

CMO interview: Why Box's marketing chief is rewarding staff for failing

Read more

At this point, being hit hard will also be subject for a detailed study. In honesty, too early to tell but there are precedents to follow...

Sean Lindeman

Australian Government to abolish 457 visa program

Read more

iflix is really a company with great potential. As a young company, iflix has forward-looking insights and able to identify data-driven m...

Serene Chan

How iflix used consumer intent data to gain 1 million subscribers in six months

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in