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Malvertising in Govt, Enterprise Targets Old Software, Macs

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A new report on malicious advertising underscores the importance of using modern web browsers and making sure your operating system is up to date with the latest security updates to prevent being infected.

When threat actors perform malicious advertising, or malvertising, they target their ads at specific web browsers and operating systems.

For example, malvertisers pushing exploit kits will show ads to Internet Explorer users as they target the browser's vulnerabilities and ads pushing the Mac Shlayer Trojan will only show the ads to macOS users.

Based on the analysis of 378 million blocked malicious ads over three months between Oct. 15,  2019 - Jan. 15, 2020, Confiant illustrates how companies and government agencies are targeted based on the browsers or operating systems that they use.

Some govt agencies continue to use Internet Explorer

Every month on Patch Tuesday, Microsoft releases new security updates and there are invariably new vulnerabilities fixed in Microsoft's outdated Internet Explorer browser.

These vulnerabilities are commonly targeted by exploit kits to install ransomware, password-stealing Trojans, remote access Trojans (RATs) or other malware, yet we continue to see organizations use this browser and potentially have their networks compromised.

In Confiant's report, they illustrate how both the United States Geological Survey and the United States Postal service are both heavily targeted by malvertising campaigns by Zirconium and Yosec.

Confiant Security researcher Eliya Stein explains that the malvertisers are not specifically targeting these two government agencies, but rather the technology that they using.

For example, Zirconium is known to be heavily targeted at outdated browsers to show tech support scam pages, so it is likely both the USGS and USPS are using outdated browsers.

"Our hypothesis is easily confirmed when we pull reporting by browser — 23% of traffic recorded from the Geological Survey is Internet Explorer, but only 1.6% for the Senate," Confiant states in their report.

Both organizations also have a high percentage of malvertising attacks by the Yosec malvertising group. As this group targets Macs with scams and fake updates pushing the Shlayer Trojan, it shows that both organizations utilize a larger amount of macOS devices compared to other U.S. government agencies.

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