Cybercrime and hacker journalist Violet Blue published a scathing revelation on Engadget this week titled, “You say advertising, I say block that malware,” which covers Forbes’ recent move that gated their content until readers turned off ad blockers. So Violet Blue turned off the ad blockers only to discover that Forbes gave her ad malware “pop unders” for doing so.
Forbes is a highly reputable publisher, so naturally this was not their intention. Violet Blue acknowledges that the guilty party here is, surprise, the ad networks. In this case, specifically it was Atomx.
Violet Blue claims that in 2015, billions of online readers were infected with malware and spyware while visiting websites… and all of them came through ad networks.
It’s easy to want to blame Reader’s Digest, or Yahoo, or Forbes, or Daily Mail, or any of these sites for screwing viewers by serving them malicious ads and not telling them, or not helping them with the cleanup afterward. And it’s a hell of a lot easier when they’ve compelled us to turn off our ad blockers to simply see what brought us to their site.
But the problem is coming through them, from the ad networks themselves. The same ones, it should be mentioned, who control the Faustian bargains made by bartering and selling our information.
What should the websites do? The ad networks clearly don’t have a handle on this at all, giving us one more reason to use ad blockers.