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Dear Legit Brands: Your creative is being used to distribute malware

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Major brands have made a lot of noise about digital ad fraud, calling on news and content sites to install safeguards such as third-party verification to assure that ads are being viewed by people, that they aren’t being gobbled up by click farms or bots, and that publishers aren’t jacking up their impression counts.

All good. All necessary. But major brands also should help publishers combat ad fraud on the other side of the fence - where their own brands are being used to infect consumers with malware, ransomware and other exploits.

Ad Exchanger wrote about the issue in great detail in this article: Legit Brand Creative is being hijacked - and advertisers need to start paying attention.- and cites examples of how a Hollister banner was actually a trojan distributing malware (detected by DEVCON) and a Wacoal banner during the holidays clicked through to a phony domain (detected by Ad Lightning).

The article makes an excellent point - one that is obvious to anyone familiar with the online advertising ecosystem but completely opaque to everyone else, from consumers to law enforcement to legislators. The point: Online advertising is dictated by a click-based metric, which makes absolute sense for search-based advertising but rewards baiting and exploits in display advertising. It’s a false metric that drives down price, invites fraud, hurts quality content sites’ sustainability and ultimately victimizes consumers.

Enough. Enough. Enough.

If we don’t raise awareness of a problem that costs publishers and consumers $51 million per day, we will continue to watch this breeding ground of criminal activity grow until digital platforms resemble a kleptocracy and not, as promised, a promising frontier.

Rusty Coats