Leading tech companies have combined forces in a new effort to secure the advertising ecosystem from malicious ads.
StopBadware, a nonprofit that focuses on preventing mischievous web activity, announced Thursday in a blog post that Facebook, Google, Twitter and AOL have launched the Ads Integrity Alliance, an industry partnership that will leverage its shared information to help protect internet users from “bad ads".
The goals of the initiative include developing industry best practices and educating policymakers and law enforcement, said Maxim Weinstein, executive director of StopBadware.
“The term the alliance is using, ‘bad ads,' refers to a range of advertisements that exploit users' trust for nefarious ends,” Weinstein said.
“This includes so-called ads that incorporate drive-by download code, which can infect an unsuspecting user's computer simply by the user viewing a website that displays the ad.”
Legitimate sites often are the target. On Monday, researchers at Perimeter E-Security, a managed security services firm, discovered that MLB.com was distributing rogue anti-virus to some of its users thanks to a hijacked ad network.
According to a blog post by Evan Keiser, researcher at Perimeter E-Security, the “multiple layers of syndication” between websites and ad servers creates confusion as to from where the ads originate. Attackers take note of this convoluted system and exploit it to their advantage.
Although Google, one of the alliance's founding members, has done its part to suspend hundreds of thousands of malicious advertiser accounts, Eric Davis, the tech giant's public policy manager, said in a May blog post no entity can single-handedly can repel the problem.
“The best way to tackle common problems across a highly interconnected web…is for the industry to work together,” Davis wrote.
Charter members of the group individually collect significant amounts of information on malicious ads through their existing efforts, Weinstein said, but the industry partnership will serve as an avenue to coordinate and share that data.
“The alliance will give them a trusted channel to share this intelligence, allowing a sort of collective knowledge that we hope will be more than the sum of its parts,” he said.