Google, Microsoft ad networks briefly hit by with malware

Doubleclick and Hotmail sites caught serving malicious ads

For a brief period this week, cybercriminals managed to infect Google's and Microsoft's online ad networks with malicious advertisements that attacked users' PCs, according to security consultancy Armorize.

The attacks started around Dec. 5 and lasted a few days, sending victims who clicked on the ads to malicious Web pages. Those pages took advantage of known software bugs to install backdoor programs that gave the attackers control of the victims' PCs, or to install software that made it appear as though the PCs were filled with malicious software.

Google acknowleged Friday that it had experienced some issues on its DoubleClick network but said it had put a stop to them quickly.

"[T]he DoubleClick Ad Exchange, which has automatic malware filters, independently detected several [ads] containing malware, and blocked them instantly -- within seconds," Google spokesman Jay Nancarrow said via email. "Our security team is in touch with Armorize to help investigate and help remove any affected creatives from any other ad platforms."

Nancarrow wouldn't say how the malicious ads got onto Google's ad network, but Armorize Chief Technology Officer Wayne Huang [cq] said cybercriminals may have tricked Google by serving the ads from a domain similar to that used by a legitimate ad-serving company, AdShuffle, based in Irving, Texas. AdShuffle couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

Armorize and others spotted similar ads on Microsoft's Hotmail service, according to Huang. Microsoft said via email Friday that it was was looking into the matter and could not comment in time for this report.

The ads exploit bugs in Adobe Reader, Java and other PC software, Huang said. The bugs have been previously identified, which means people with up-to-date software and antivirus products should not be at risk.

Criminals have slid malicious ads into circulation before. Last year, the New York Times was tricked into running a fake ad for the Vonage VoIP service. It generated fake antivirus warnings that encouraged readers to buy bogus security software.

The Doubleclick and Hotmail ads appear to have been more dangerous, however, in that they attacked computers and installed malicious software, such as the HDD Plus fake system optimization tool.

"This time it's different. It's using drive-by downloads," Huang said. "You visit a site and then you see a fake antivirus pop up." It looks like a genuine antivirus message, he said, and is already installed on the victim's computer. ""Even if you reboot, it's already there."

If the cybercriminals were able to get their bad ads on Google's and Microsoft's networks, they'll probably try to do the same thing on other networks too, he said.

Amorize planned to publish a blog post about the infection here on Friday evening.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags advertisingGoogleMicrosoftsecurityinternetmalware

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

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

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?