Online ads have typically been seen by web visitors as annoyances (especially the auto-playing kinds), but lately ads have been growing beyond just irritating to downright malicious.
CNN reports that hackers are increasingly slipping malware into legitimate-looking online ads--not the "how to reduce belly fat" kinds of ads--onto even trustworthy sites. This "malvertising" can automatically and silently install malware onto your computer if you click on the ad, and then the malware can steal valuable information or even lock your files for ransome.
Thanks to the auction-like way online ads are sold and displayed, these ads can go easily undetected amongst the millions of other ads served up by the ad networks.
The simple solution is to never click on an online ad--but we've probably all mistakenly done so, thanks to the advent of rollover and floating ads, which are too easy to click on inadvertently.
The better, although extreme, solution is to install a browser extension like Adlock Plus, which blocks all ads from appearing. Unfortunately, since most sites get their revenue from online advertising this ultimately hurts content providers. As someone who makes her living writing online, this isn't a recommendation offered lightly, but it's important everyone's aware of the possible threat behind even innocent-looking ads.
Don't forget to keep your anti-malware and system always up to date as well.
Photo by Chingster23.