I have long complained about ads on web sites delivering malicious content in addition to ads. In fact, I have even advocated blocking ads because of it, but since most web sites exist because of the revenue generated from those ads, the ad content is only getting more invasive.
There have been many incidents of ads serving up malware and infecting computers in homes, businesses and government offices, so this is a real problem. And, of course, if that malware gets onto government computers, it could steal important stuff. Not like the malware on your computer or mine (or at least that seems to be what they are saying).
The government has a solution. Sort of. US Senator Ron Wyden sent a letter to White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce asking him to coordinate discussions with the advertising industry to end the delivery of malicious ads on government networks.
That’s not a bad thing although I am not sure why Wyden thinks it is OK to deliver malicious ads to you and me – just not to the government.
The good news is, of course, if they actually implement something to stop the delivery of malicious ads to government computers, they will likely implement it everywhere.
But after he makes this sort of benign request, he ups the ante.
If, after 180 days, you are not completely confident that the ad industry will effectively address this cyber threat, then have DHS issue a binding order requiring federal agencies to block all ads containing executable code.
I am sure that Google and the advertising industry is thrilled. NOT!
In the industry’s defense, I am sure that they are trying to block malicious content; the only question is how hard. After all, even malicious ads generate revenue and it is hard to filter all ads.
If the White House takes Wyden seriously that could be a problem for the advertising industry. Whatever the government does, other businesses are likely to follow and the end result would be a reduction in ad revenue if people start blocking ads in even larger quantities than they are doing today. Software like Ad Blocker Plus is pretty popular. According to one stat, 26% of desktop users and 15% of mobile users currently block ads. If that only goes up a few percentage points that would be expensive to Google and the ad industry.
Sites that look for ad blockers and which won’t let you visit the site if you are blocking ads (like Forbes.com, for example) would be completely off limits to government workers. That alone would, I think, motivate the industry to get off its rear and solve the problem.
Stay tuned and lets see what Washington does. If they really do something, that would be very helpful.
As I said, stay tuned.
Information for this post came from Bleeping Computer.