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

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?