Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held a hearing on “Online Advertising and Hidden Hazards to Consumer Security and Data Privacy.” The hearing was based on a year-long investigation into a broader set of issues related to consumer privacy and security on the Internet, which narrowed over time to focus specifically on the online advertising industry and the problem posed by “malvertising,” or advertisement-based malware, which cybercriminals can use to target consumers through online advertising.
The hearing was accompanied by a report jointly authored by Subcommittee Chairman Carl Levin and Ranking Member John McCain. The report, which focused on the problem of malvertising, highlighted recent malware attacks channeled through well-known websites such as YouTube (owned by Google) and Yahoo!. The report presented four major recommendations for limiting the risk to consumers posed by malvertising: (1) establishing better practices and clearer rules to prevent online advertising abuses; (2) strengthening security information exchanges within the online advertising industry to prevent abuses; (3) clarifying specific prohibited practices in online advertising to prevent abuses and protect consumers; and (4) developing additional “circuit breakers” to protect consumers once malvertising attacks are discovered.
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