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 Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags advertisingtrend microsecurityExploits / vulnerabilitiesinternet

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?