Isolate Malvertising to Surf the Internet Safely

Do you know that even the famous and trusted websites, including the New York Times, the London Stock Exchange, AOL, MSN, Yahoo!, Spotify, The Onion, the BBC, and many more have also harbored malvertising? Despite all cybersecurity efforts made by organizations, hackers ably manipulate networks and find their way to exploiting the holes in the digital advertising ecosystem to successfully plant malvertisements in ads displayed on trusted websites. This means that malvertising will hit you even when you’re not visiting porn, gambling or pirated media websites.

Malvertising is bigger than it seems

Once you’re on the internet, you’re exposed to all sorts of cyberattacks, but above all malvertising as it stealthily delivers malware through web-based advertisements. It works its way into an ad server and unknowingly spreads through trusted web pages as the ad server displays ads to site visitors. Hackers often take the malvertising route to distribute ransomware, coin-mining of cryptocurrency, and other malicious payloads, including WannCry, NotPetya, and Cryptolocker that have jeopardized many industries and organizations in the past. In the last couple of years, malvertising has also triggered the rapid spread of cryptojacking malware. Cryptojacking leads to a very high CPU utilization of the system in cryptomining activity, which has an adverse impact on user productivity.[1] Rough actors have been able to hijack even the renowned platforms like Google’s DoubleClick Ad service to mine bitcoins.[2]

Confiant claims to monitor one trillion ads every quarter and finds there are still close to four billion problematic impressions a month that are marred by a serious security or quality issue.[3] The sheer number shows the extent to which malvertising has mushroomed worldwide. Organizations have been paying a hefty price due to this. This pain seems to have grown even bigger during the COVID 19 pandemic. With most of the workforce operating from out of the office, workers increase their use of the browser creating more opportunities for malvertising to succeed. This brought to the fore vulnerabilities in firewalls, secure gateways, VPNs, and proxies.

Securing the web gateways

You will continue to be exposed to malvertising-infested ads unless you completely pull the plug on the internet, which is unimaginable for today’s digital enterprises. You can, however, take action to prevent malvertising by securing the web-gateways with the right architecture. Gartner in its report ‘Select the Right Strategy for Securing Web Access’ emphasizes that “security and risk management leaders who select the right architecture for secure web gateways or identify the right alternative solution will improve security while optimizing spend.” One of the three major secure web gateway architectures in the market, as identified by Gartner in the same report, is remote browser isolation.[4]

Embracing remote browser isolation

A simple and effective way to prevent malvertisements from reaching you, Remote Browser Isolation (RBI) contains browser activity inside an isolated environment (Zero Trust) away from the local network. It fetches, executes, and renders all elements of a page away from the user’s device and effectively protects against malvertising-infested ads. In its report, the SANS Institute also notes one key reason why remote browser isolation is critical to any organization’s cybersecurity program: almost all work performed today requires use of the browser.  Especially with current remote workforce models and heavy reliance on the cloud, SANS has labeled the browser as the new endpoint.  Attackers focus on the browser as one of the biggest – and potentially most vulnerable – attack vectors. With its Zero Trust-based architecture, RBI can neutralize all malicious ads in the remote environment without compromising on the user’s web experience.



Onkar Sharma

Principal Specialist – Content Marketing, Cyberinc