How dangerous are online ads?

by Tomas Statkus - -

The dangers of online ads

One of the most annoying things about the Internet is the presence of advertisements. Of course, you can think of them as a great tool to monetize websites without users needing to pay for any of the services – who would want to pay money for visiting a page? – but they can be quite dangerous.

How dangerous are online ads?

There is a way of spreading malware called malvertising[1]. It works like this: you visit a page that looks safe. Then you see or click on a legitimately-looking ad and get infected with malware – it can happen to anyone!

You see, malvertising is injecting dangerous ads into websites and advertising networks that don’t have any malicious intentions on their own. In other words, they are also victims.

The worst thing about such infections is that you don’t even need to click on an ad to get infected. There exists a thing called “pre-click” malware that can auto-run or that is embedded in the page scripts. This means that you then have no control over what you computer downloads – malware can infect you automatically.[2]

This means that you simply have to visit an infected page and the malware is yours.

The types of online advertisements

There are a few different types of online ads that can be dangerous and used for distributing viruses. Many of them you can encounter on various streaming and file sharing sites.[3]

  • Pop-ups

Pop-ups just might be the most annoying kind of online ads. They can appear on your screen when you open or close a page. Additionally, you can see one when clicking on a fake “play” button when you want to watch a video on a streaming page, or a fake “download” button.

Many pop-ups are used not only for advertising purposes, but also for spreading malware. If you notice such an ad on a page, do not visit it again as it might infect you.

  • In-text ads

Sometimes while reading an article online you will see that some of the keywords are highlighted, advertising some kind of products when you hover your mouse over them. Some types of adware can make you see a lot of them.

  • Banners

Banner ads are one of the most common advertisements you’ll see. You can see them at the top of the page, on the side of the screen or between different paragraphs.

Usually, they are legitimate, but they can infect you if you are visiting a shady page. Do not click on banner ads if they have pornographic or game-related pictures – these have a high chance of infection.

  • Fake update buttons

Fake update buttons are a real pain – they deceive a lot of users. You might think that you will update your Flash Player, but you download a Trojan or a worm instead.

Remember – never click on suspicious update buttons on websites that are not the legitimate sources of the software.

How to protect your computer from ads?

Most often users get infected if they actually click an ad. The best thing to do is not visiting suspicious pages at all – if you suspect that something is shady, don’t wait and leave the page.

However, when extremely intrusive ads try downloading malware on your computer on their own, the best thing to do is purchasing a good anti-malware program. It will detect and eliminate the threat before it takes place.

About the author

Tomas Statkus
Tomas Statkus - Team leader

Tomas Statkus is an IT specialist, the team leader, and the founder of He has worked in the IT area for over 10 years.

Contact Tomas Statkus
About the company Esolutions


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