What Does Malvertising Mean?

Malvertising is a malicious form of Internet advertising used to spread malware.


Malvertising is usually executed by hiding malicious code within relatively safe online advertisements. These ads can lead a victim to unreliable content or directly infect a victim’s computer with malware, which may damage a system, access sensitive information or even control the computer through remote access.

Malvertising relies on social network advertising or user-supplied content publishing services. Malvertising may include preinstalled malicious programs set to launch through payloads at specific dates and times.

Techopedia Explains Malvertising

Usually, malvertising ads include active scripts that are built to download malware or force undesirable content to the victim’s computer. Malvertisers primarily use Flash and Adobe to spread malware because both applications are very popular with Internet users and highly prone to security vulnerabilities.

Malvertising is immune to encryption tools like Adobe’s Shockwave Flash (SWF). Malicious ads contain Flash ActionScript exploit code that corrupts SWF files. The SWFIntruder tool is an analysis kit that helps software security administrators detect malvertising. It was developed by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).

Ad rotators use geotargeting technology to run preassigned malvertisements, which target users from specific countries and further complicate attack detection.

Because malvertising is included in websites and SWF files, anti-malware tools must be used to avert malvertising’s harmful effects, for the following reasons:

  • To differentiate between legitimate and malicious advertising
  • To track malvertisements and associated Internet Protocol (IP) ranges
  • To identify suspicious Flash files
  • To verify malicious website content

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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…