Malicious Facebook ad redirected to fake antivirus software

The issue highlights the continuing problem with malicious advertisements on Web sites

A malicious advertisement has been found within an application for Facebook that redirected users to fake antivirus software, according to a security researcher.

The banner advertisement for greeting cards was intermittently displayed with an application called Farm Town, which has more than 9 million monthly users according to information published on Facebook.

If the bad Shockwave Flash advertisement was displayed, the user was redirected from Facebook through several domains and ended up on a Web site selling fake antivirus software, said Sandi Hardmeier, who studies malicious advertisements and blogged about the issue.

Farm Town's developer, SlashKey, has a notice on its Web site saying it has notified its developers of the problem.

"We believe at this time that it is harmless to your computer and a result of one or more of the ads on the site, but you should not follow any links to any software claiming to 'clean your system,'" the notice reads. "Most good antivirus/malware program will catch and quarantine this malware."

Hardmeier disagrees that it is harmless. "I'm disappointed that they are trying to minimize the perception of risk," she said.

The bad advertisement has since been pulled, said Matt Brummett, account manager at Adknowledge, the online advertising network that owns Cubics.com, which served the ad. The agency that supplied Cubics.com with the ad, AdSeven Media, based in the Netherlands, has been banned from their network, Brummett said.

Brummett said Adknowledge uses both technical and other checks to keep out bad ads, but on rare occasions the safeguards are circumvented."We have identified the breakdown on this occurrence, and it will be remedied," he said.

Fake antivirus sites usually tell users their computers are infected and implore them to download the software, which is often completely ineffective. Consumers are charged as much as US$70 for the software, which is also difficult to remove, and have trouble recovering their money.

There are hundreds of fake antivirus programs, and security experts estimate it is a multimillion dollar industry. Panda Security wrote in a report last year that as many as 35 million computers worldwide may be infected with fake antivirus programs each month.

Google's Chrome browser did detect the malicious domains used to redirect the user and blocked the attack. The company has "safe browsing" technology built into its browser that will block users from going to potentially harmful Web sites. Internet Explorer 8, however, did not, Hardmeier said. She was in the process of testing Firefox on Monday morning.

Hackers have been known to figure out ways to slip their malicious advertisements onto ad networks that supply advertisements to innumerable Web sites. Many ad networks have taken steps to ensure malicious ads don't circulate. But there are ways around using the ad networks.

"The bad guys are going straight to site owners and offering them advertising," Hardmeier said via instant message. "The responsible networks are monitoring for the bad stuff and catching it and will suspend the bad campaigns immediately."

Hardmeier said she notifiedCubics.com, which delivered the ad to Farm Town, and is in the process of notifying Facebook. Officials at Facebook could not be immediately reached.

Social networking sites such as Facebook are a prime target for scammers due to their high number of users and potential victims.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags malwareFacebookantivirusonline advertising

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

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?