McAfee, Adgregate unveil anti-malware for Web ads

New service is aimed at protecting Web surfers from malware lurking in ads.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read
Adgregate Markets

McAfee is partnering with Adgregate Markets on a new service designed to keep malware out of ads that appear on Web sites, the companies plan to announce Monday.

Typically, ad networks, advertisers, and publishers have to manually scan advertising content for malware. The Secure Ads service aims to automate that process for them, said Henry Wong, chief executive of Adgregate Markets.

Currently, when staff at ad and publisher networks perform quality assurance on ads, "they are supposed to catch any potential malicious advertising units, but a lot slip through the cracks," he said. "We secure the ad unit itself and make sure it is malware- and spyware-free and cannot be manipulated."

Ads hiding malware are becoming a bigger problem for Web sites and ad networks, whose reputation and business are hurt when attackers inject malicious code into Flash-based ads served up on innocent Web sites. Web surfers may know that they take risks when they visit porn and other less-reputable sites, but they are caught off guard when they find their computers infected by high-profile Web sites that they trust. And often, people don't even need to click on an ad to get infected by malware hiding in it.

Visitors to The New York Times and the Drudge Report among other sites have been hit with malware delivered by ads. Even big ad networks like Yahoo and Google aren't immune to the problem.


The service relies on McAfee's Secure technology, which tests for more than 10,000 vulnerabilities, said Brent Remai, vice president of consumer marketing at McAfee.

Not only will the content of the ads be scanned, but transactions conducted within interactive ads will be secured, he said.

For instance, some ads enable a Web surfer to make a purchase directly through the ad, and the service will confirm the source of the transactional application, verify its integrity as rendered in a Web browser, and securely transmit lead generation and other data back to the advertiser, the companies said.