A new report has warned that hacking websites bombard users with malicious ads and drive victims to download viruses, malware, and even ransomware.
Research published by the Digital Citizens Alliance, White Bullet and Unit 221B has found that piracy websites, where people search for free content such as movies, series or sporting events, are littered with malicious ads — malicious ads that promote intimidation tactics and other shady means in order to get people to click on them.
For example, the ad might look like an antivirus, claiming that the victim’s endpoint is infected with a virus and that they should click the button below to clean their device. Clicking the button will do the exact opposite, infecting the device with malware and, in some cases, even ransomware. Some malware distributed in this way is capable of stealing (Opens in a new tab) Sensitive banking information, install spyware that tracks users’ activities, or identifies the device for future attacks.
Malv Advertising has grown on piracy websites to become a major industry as well, the report claims, saying that piracy operators generate an estimated $121 million in revenue this way.
They also make up about 12% of all ads displayed on hacking sites, while more than half of the $121 million ($68.3 million) came from US visitors. In fact, hacking sites do well with malicious ads as nearly 80% of these sites serve ads filled with malware to their users.
Moreover, the sizes are enormous. Visitors to the hacking site received a total of 321 million ads.
“This report confirms what content owners have suspected for years – that the use of piracy services is likely to harm consumers through malware. (Opens in a new tab) Says Peter Czescu, CEO and founder of White Bullet.
“We collect massive amounts of advertising data about piracy services and track their value. It is clear that it is not just brands that are responsible for funding piracy by placing ads; ad technology companies have to be vigilant about where to place ads and what kind of ads they accept. To make as much money as possible – whether from legitimate but misplaced advertising or from malicious actors. The ad industry needs to stop funding piracy, or, as we can see now, all content owners and consumers are suffering.”