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The Media Trust & ExchangeWire Release Global Malware Study

Today ExchangeWire released the first global study of the perceptions of malware and malvertising in the digital advertising ecosystem. The research and accompanying report were created in partnership with The Media Trust, the world’s leading media verification, malware protection, and advertising quality assurance platform.

The results will be revealed and discussed later today at an event in London later today.

From the Forward:

The digital advertising ecosystem is in a state of crisis, with many questioning its security. Each week bears witness to another media story regarding malware-laden ads infecting devices to cause harm to consumers. The presence of malware in the digital environment is no longer a topic relegated to advertising professionals – it’s become a mainstream and global issue.

Each year the number of ad-delivered malware infections increases, with The Media Trust detecting a year-over-year doubling in growth for the past several years. Clearly, malware is not new, which presents an interesting question: What do digital advertising professionals think about malware?

This study provides insight into the opinions of agencies, ad tech providers and publishers across several of the world’s largest publishing markets. In general, most are aware of the malvertising risks in their environments and almost everyone agrees it’s on the rise. However, there are some surprising results, and several opinions do not correlate with industry data:

• 50%+ believe malware is less of a problem on mobile

• US and UK publishers feel malware is a bigger issue for ecommerce than publisher/media websites

• Industry professionals believe 72% of malware exists on non-premium sites

• 20% of publishers believe their websites’ are safe from the constant threat of malware

You can download the full report here: Malware Report.

The coming controlled burn in online media



For a while it’s been clear than something has needed to change. The sheer amount of garbage inventory in online media has been both increasing and having an increasing amount of light shone upon it. It comes in many forms: outright fraudulent ads, poor creative ads selling for pennies, too many ads on a publisher site with no attention paid to placement or relevance, viewability – or lack thereof, and, in short, just way too much inventory in the market. In 2013, the last year for which I could find numbers, over 5 trillion ads were served worldwide, excluding Google Ad Words. That’s a lot of inventory.

For the industry to reach its next level of maturity and growth, there needs to be a reckoning. The analogy I’ve been using lately is that of a controlled burn and the cycle of fires that permit forests to grow. In order to move on there needs to be large, global effort to cut down on the sheer volume of ads, burn out the deadwood if you will,  and allow new ad formats to flourish, buyers to regain trust in ads, and show consumers that not all online ads are as terrible as the ones driving them in droves to install ad blockers.

Part of this work has recently been done by AppNexus who report some positive news regarding yield on ads once a house has been cleaned. The company claims that claimed that by eliminating bad traffic running through its platform has led to an increase in the price advertisers are willing to pay — a fact that has been in question until now. Earlier this year, a separate initiative from the ad tech platform seeing view through rates rocket by 77 per cent.

AppNexus has claimed this resulted in the average clickthrough rates (CTR) jumping 46 per cent compared to 12 months earlier, with publishers selling inventory via the platform also seeing a 255 per cent jump in average CPMs, according to the report.

So dynamic was the supply-and-demand effect that the average CPM rate hit an all-time high of $1.76 on 29 September (the average for the quarter was $0.64), with average CTR hitting 0.062 per cent, compared to 0.043 per cent 12 months earlier.

In addition, the implementation of AppNexus IQ has also seen the average viewability rate increase 77 per cent compared to 12 months earlier, although the average viewability rates on the platform remained below 50 per cent during the period.

Source: Traffic quality crackdown kicks off record price rise

Online Advertising Fraudsters Turn to ‘Ad-Injection’ Scams

I’m not sure if it’s the Baader-Meinhof Syndrome taking effect now that I’m working with The Media Trust but it sure seems like we’re seeing an increasing number of general media stories about malware and other attacks spread through ad-based vectors. This weekend we had Pagefair, an ad-blocker remover, unwittingly serve as a distributor of malware to over 500 sites and now this story in WSJ.
I fear it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets a lot better and we’ll see some pretty big names dragged through the dirt because of it.

The online ad industry has yet another scam to contend with, and this time it’s publishers bearing the brunt instead of marketers.
The industry is already fighting an ongoing battle against “bots,” computer programs that disguise themselves as real users to defraud advertisers. But now fraud detection companies say there’s a growing threat from “ad injection,” whereby Web users’ browsers are commandeered and ads are stuffed into sites without publishers’ permission.

Source: Online Advertising Fraudsters Turn to ‘Ad-Injection’ Scams

iOS Ad Blockers Begin Dropping In Popularity

Is the blocker bubble bursting?

An article in MarketingLand from Sep. 29, a site you’d think would err in the opposite direction in any analysis, today reported that, “for the first time since iOS 9 launched, no ad blocker is number one on the paid apps chart for iPhone.” and that, “two weeks since ad blockers skyrocketed to the top of the iPhone paid app chart, only one remains in the top five, while a former number one has slipped to below 20th place.”

What’s going on here? The article, without explicitly saying so, seems to point the finger at a user base spoiled for choice and confused by endless options. Some apps allow whitelisting through Eyeo’s list of so-called ‘well behaved’ apps. Others don’t allow any whitelisting at all. While others still have very granular configuration options.

PageFair, one of several adblocker-blockers, backed up this research by reporting a 2% drop in blocker penetration in the US last month — the first drop of that size since May 2014.

It’s unclear if this is just dust settling after all the recently news around ad blocking or part of some larger trend.

I’d love to hear from others as to what they’re seeing and experiencing.

Source: iOS Ad Blockers Begin Dropping In Popularity

The Scrap Value of a Hacked PC, Revisited — Krebs on Security

As I continue to dig into the dark and murky world of malware and madvertising I am discovering some pretty cool stuff. Here’s a great diagram of all the things that nefarious individuals can do once they gain access to your computer — even a basic web-browsing and email-checking one.

Source: The Scrap Value of a Hacked PC, Revisited — Krebs on Security

From his post:

One of the ideas I tried to get across with this image is that nearly every aspect of a hacked computer and a user’s online life can be and has been commoditized. If it has value and can be resold, you can be sure there is a service or product offered in the cybercriminal underground to monetize it. I haven’t yet found an exception to this rule.

I definitely recommend Brian Krebs’ site if you’re interested in this stuff. He’s kind of a (somewhat nerdy) badass.

How Apple is on track to make over $30B/year thanks to AdBlockers | Arthur Querou | LinkedIn

I’m not entirely surprised by this. Not sure how much is paranoid conspiracy theory and how much is believable but it does make sense to think Apple is playing a long game when it comes to mobile advertising.

The following is an answer to a question we get more and more often from our clients and partners at Adikteev/MotionLead being a Rich Media Mobile Ad

From the article:

Step 1:

Take the oxygen out of the room when it comes to mobile web thanks to adblocking.

This will force the Publishers to create great native apps in order to move their audience from mobile web to their apps.

Publishers will probably focus on iOS first, for obvious financial reasons, which will greatly improve the quality and features of apps that were used mostly on mobile web, increase the use of apps in general and increase the overall perceived quality of iOS products.

Sounds great for the users!

Step 2:

Improve fluidity and linking between apps. Users like mobile web because it’s not a closed environment as the apps are at the moment. By making the app ecosystem more fluid, a lot of connections between apps are going to appear.

Links between websites account for a good part of Web’s success, that’s what Apple now wants to replicate.

They are quietly introducing new features on this subject and more features will probably come around this.

Step 3:

Cut more and more data that could be useful to target mobile ads.

Remember when Apple disallowed developers to check if several apps were already installed on the phone ?

That’s just the beginning.

Step 4 (optional) :

Acquire some strategic ad-tech companies such as AppNexus (Major SSP and DSP technology provider).

This will empower Apple to move quicker with an already mature technology that is broadly used and connected with most of the big advertising companies.

Step 5:

Coup d’état ! Apple disallows every ad network to run direct ads on iOS apps. Don’t read this wrong, they do not disallow ad networks, just direct buying. Which is why they introduce Apple Ads, a centralised platform (SSP) where any Ad Network can plug itself, third party partners, SDK, etc.

They can then run their ads freely and Apple can also provide the best data on the market, a much much better one than Facebook’s. They can give you users segmentation about what kind of apps the users likes, how much they spend (Apple Pay), their age, their location, and more complex profiles based on users’ use of their devices.

Brands get an amazing way to target their audience and developers finally get a way to get cheap and high quality installs which completely solves the App Discovery problem. Hitting two targets with one bullet!

Source: How Apple is on track to make over $30B/year thanks to AdBlockers | Arthur Querou | LinkedIn

Malvertising campaign found on Google Adwords

As I’ve started to dive into the dark world of malvertising and malware, it’s incredible to see how both widespread and endemic the issue is and, at the same time, how little the main stream press covers it and how unaware large publishers are about the problem.

Even Googles popular advertising service isnt secure from cybercrooks

Source: Malvertising campaign found on Google Adwords

Mobile Ad Blocking Infographic – DigitalAdBlog

Here’s a handy little infographic covering some of the key details about Apple’s new support for ad blockers in iOS 9

The Mobile Majority released an eye opening infographic entitled “The Implications of Mobile Ad Blocking on iOS 9” which gives the industry extremely important and surprising data regarding the effects of mobile ad blocking

Source: Mobile Ad Blocking Infographic – DigitalAdBlog

Of Note: GIFs find new lease on life in mobile messaging

DAILY REPORT: The GIF Start-Ups Fostering a Visual Language on Mobile

The humble GIF seems to be getting at least third lease on life, this time through mobile messaging.

What started life as a way of simplifying and reducing the file size of digital pictures on the pre-Web online network CompuServe has found yet another role in life. GIFs later found a home on chat boards and Tumblr sites as a way of sharing compressed motion image clips (an example is looping below this paragraph). Now they are being used to do the same over mobile messaging.

Source: For Mobile Messaging, GIFs Prove to Be Worth at Least a Thousand Words – The New York Times