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TMCnet Feature

January 06, 2014

Big Yikes for Yahoo as Malware Attack Hits Ad Server

It seems as if this holiday season has been plagued by flaws in various security systems. Who could forget the recent data breach at Target over the primetime holiday shopping season – with 40 million credit and debit card holders information found in the wrong hands? It seems as if we can’t escape it – even if we stay home instead and simply surf the Web. Over the last few days a malware attack bombarded popular search engine Yahoo’s advertising server, leaving thousands of users across the globe in a vulnerable position.

Fox-IT, a firm in the Netherlands that focuses on cyber defense revealed, “Clients visiting received advertisements served by…Some of the advertisements are malicious.” It is estimated that tens of thousands of users were affected every hour – every hour!

The firm also revealed that, “the countries most affected by the exploit kit are Romania, Great Britain and France. At this time its unclear why those countries are most affected, it is likely due to the configuration of the malicious advertisements on Yahoo."

If a computer is infected with malware and that computer is connected to a network, attackers can access other connected systems and servers – which can mean big trouble for confidential files and big corporations. Peter Bernstein, senior editor and resident security expert at TMCnet, stresses the fact that users must take precaution more than ever. “Unfortunately, as predicted, those with malicious intent have started the year with a malware attack on a highly visible target in Yahoo!  Since Yahoo is saying that there is a monetary element involved, this should serve as a warning to everyone that being a bad guy is now more than ever a business. In fact, it is a growth one and highly lucrative.  This should serve as a major wake up call for everyone.”

So what is Yahoo’s grand gesture in an effort to fix things? "At Yahoo, we take the safety and privacy of our users seriously, on Friday, on our European sites, we served some advertisements that did not meet our editorial guidelines, and specifically they spread malware. We promptly removed these advertisements,” the company said. This puts a big target on the back of a search engine that is already struggling to compete with Google, Bing and other sites. Hopefully Yahoo has learned its lesson regarding the criteria for editorial advertisements – but this most definitely adds salt to the wound.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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