WordPress Malvertising Campaign: How to Protect Your Website Against It


Consider waking up one peaceful morning knowing your website is up and running. However, when you go to your website, you’ll notice that it’s full of annoying pop-ups that won’t go down! Your advertisements’ content has been modified to advertise drugs or adult websites! That’s what’s known as “WordPress malvertising.”

Your advertisement network has most likely been compromised, and as a result, your website has been subjected to malvertising! Malvertising campaigns are used by hackers to view inappropriate material, redirect visitors to malicious websites, and spread malware.

You can feel powerless because the hack is at the network level and is not your fault. However, you will bear the brunt of the repercussions, including adwords account suspension and a significant drop in traffic and revenue!

You don’t have to depend on your advertisement network to repair it, thankfully! There are steps you can take right away to protect your website from hackers.

You’ll learn how malvertising functions in this post, as well as how to recover from it. You’ll also learn how to avoid it happening again so you don’t have to go through this nightmare again.

TL;DR version

Installing a strong firewall will shield you from malvertising attacks. Enable MalCare on your infected site, and it will quickly search and detect any malware present. It’ll be fixed in a matter of minutes, and your website will be back to normal.

What Is Malvertising in WordPress?

Malvertising is a form of attack in which malicious code is injected into online ads by hackers. This indicates that the website has not been compromised, but the ads have been infected with malware.

Hackers initiate Malvertisement attacks by submitting malicious advertisements to an online advertising network. These ads are approved if the network is unable to detect the malware in the ad. The ad is then shown on your website.

The website user is the focus of this scheme. The malvertising scheme is enabled when a visitor views a page with an infected ad or clicks on the ad. It may infect the visitor’s device with malware or adware, or cause the user’s browser to redirect to a malicious site. We’ll go over the effect in more detail later.

Let’s take a closer look at how hackers are able to infect WordPress.

How Does Malvertising Work?

Let’s take a step back to look at how online ads function to better understand the WordPress hacking technique known as malvertising.

How Online Advertisements Work

Advertisers (who wish to pay to get their advertisements displayed) and publishers are brought together by an online advertising network (who want to earn revenue from displaying those ads on their website).

The publisher joins the network (such as Google AdSense, Media.net, Propeller Ads, or PopAds) and submits his or her website for approval. The publisher creates ad spaces on the website after the network agrees.

A complex system of exchanges, delegates, and intermediaries is used to sell and buy this ad space. Advertisers compete in real time for ad space to target a specific form of customer.

Custom Javascript code is used in these advertisements, which runs in the user’s browser.

This is where things get a little complicated. Ads are coded in such a way that the exact content that the user sees is dependent on a number of factors:

  • Who are they?
  • What they enjoy, such as their tastes
  • Where are they located?
  • What kind of interface are they using?

As a result, the Javascript code is highly customised, making it difficult for ad networks and publishers to review each version of the advertisement and decide which is malicious.

We can now see how malvertisement operates.

How Malvertisement Works

Hackers take advantage of the system’s complexity by submitting ads with malicious code disguised and concealed.

They are good in having their ad accepted by passing the reviews due to security loopholes, and they bid for ad room. They view their advertisements on large and small websites throughout the advertising network.

Unwanted advertisements and pop-up ads will begin to appear on the website where they had purchased ad space.

Finally, the malicious code is executed when a visitor views a page with an infected ad or clicks on the ad.

Unfortunately, website owners and visitors bear the brunt of the consequences of such an attack.

Impact Of Malvertising On WordPress Websites

Malvertising, as previously said, has negative consequences for both your visitors and your website. What are these ramifications? Take a look at the following:

Effects On Website Visitors

Malvertising campaigns have the following effects on visitors to your website:

Unwanted Content

Visitors will be exposed to unwanted material as a result of the advertisements. Adult material, illicit drugs, counterfeit goods, and other items fall under this category.

Infected Computers

Some advertisements start a download on their own. The hacker might force the installation of malicious software onto the visitor’s computer simply by viewing the page with the infected ad. Hackers will then wreck havoc on the user’s device by taking control of it, stealing personal information, downloading ransomware, and so on.

Malicious Redirects

It has the ability to guide visitors to malicious websites that can compel an automatic download. Visitors can also be led to a site that appears to be the same as the one they’re on, but is actually a hacker’s malicious website. Phishing sites are designed to steal sensitive information from users, such as credit card numbers.

Effects On Your Website

The following are the effects of a malvertising assault on website owners:

Slow Website

Since malicious ads typically consume more energy, it can slow down the pace and efficiency of your website. This ensures that the WordPress ransomware infection would consume web server resources that would otherwise be used to keep your website running at top speed.

Reduced Traffic

Your traffic will decrease and your bounce rate will rise as the advertisements redirect your visitors to other websites. Visitors would most likely not return to your site until they know it has been compromised and they are at risk.

Google Blacklist

Google offers a range of tools for determining whether or not the website is infected with malware. Google will blacklist the website if it detects malicious advertising on it, preventing its users from accessing it.

WebHost Suspension

Similarly, if your web hosting company finds malware on your site, they will cancel your account and shut your site down immediately. This is done to safeguard their own networks as well as other websites hosted on their server.

Loss of Revenue

Malvertising has resulted in a significant drop in revenue for websites that have been affected. Your traffic will drop dramatically once your site is put on the blacklist. This means that your advertising will not bring in any money. If you run an online shop, you’d also lose paying customers!

Even though the malware originated from the network, sites have been blacklisted by the ad network! It takes a long time to get back on the network. Meanwhile, you’re likely to lose a huge amount of money.

Malware from a malvertisement attack, of course, needs immediate cleanup. We can assure you that contacting your advertisement network will be a lengthy process that will take time to resolve.

Advertisements from millions of advertisers are served by ad networks. These advertisements are complex since they are based on real-time bidding. It becomes difficult to test any ad that is displayed to a customer.

Here’s what you can do to take control of the situation and clear up the mess:

Cleaning up a Malvertisement Attack

You can remove any kind of malware from your website in one of two ways: manually or with the help of a plugin.

Many of our clients have attempted to remove the malicious advertisements on their own, only to have them reappear. The issue is that malicious code was implanted in your WordPress files by hackers. We advise against using the manual approach for the following reasons:

  • You must first log into your hosting control panel and file manager. The next step is to manually search your server’s WordPress files.
  • You can need to remove code from files like the wp-config.php file, which is extremely dangerous. It’s possible that you’ll have to erase all of the hacker’s files. Any minor blunder here could result in a WordPress site that is totally unusable.
  • Second, it’s incredibly difficult to detect manually because it’s disguised as standard code.

Instead, there are WordPress security tools that can help you clean up your site quickly and easily. We strongly advise you to use a web security plugin. However, you must select the appropriate plugin from among these options.

How to Choose a Non-Vulnerable Plugin

Many plugins depend on antiquated malware detection methods. The malware sometimes goes undetected, giving the impression that your site is safe when it isn’t. Most plugins have a time-consuming malware removal operation. However, time is of the essence in such an assault. The longer you wait to repair it, the worse the consequences will be.

MalCare can be used to prevent these issues. It’s effective, dependable, and comprehensive. The plugin, which is based on smart technology, can detect even the most complex and deeply hidden malware on your web. The fact that it has an instant cleaner is the biggest bonus. If your website has been hacked, you can clean it up in a matter of minutes and get it back to normal. Take a look at the following:

How to Use MalCare Plugin

  • Install MalCare on your WordPress site and go to the dashboard and click on ‘Add your Site.’
  • It will begin searching your WordPress website for malware automatically.
  • The plugin will then begin to delete malware from your site after you click on ‘Auto-Clean.’
  • That is everything there is to it. You don’t have to worry about fraudulent advertising being shown on your site because it’s clean.

Before we leave you, we’ll give you a few pointers on how to keep your website safe from such attacks.

Prevent Malvertising On Your WordPress Site

Take the following steps to protect your website from malvertising:

Measures of Advertising

  • Examine ad networks – Before joining an ad network, learn about their procedures. Examine their ad distribution methods and security policies. Ensure that the ad network thoroughly checks the advertisements it displays before passing them on to your platform.
  • Dedicate Resources to Ad Vets – If you have the manpower, it’s a good idea to set aside some time and resources to review your site’s ads on a regular basis.
  • Detect Malware in Images – Before uploading image files to your account, make sure they’re free of malicious code. This can be accomplished by using a staging site that is separate from your live site. Upload the ad images here and check them for malware. You can upload it to your live site if it’s clean.

Website and Device Measures

  • Run daily malware scans – It’s best not to entrust your protection to third parties. Daily scans of themes, plugins, and files will ensure that any malware issues are detected as soon as they appear on your website.
  • Maintain a firewall on your website – A firewall can prevent malicious traffic from accessing your site in the first place. But, more importantly, if it detects something unusual on your site, it will notify you.
  • Update your website – We suggest that you use the most recent WordPress edition. You should also make sure that all of your themes and plugins are up to date. All of these website components – the WordPress centre, themes, and plugins – are updated on a regular basis to address security vulnerabilities and loopholes that are discovered. You will ensure that your WordPress site is working on the most stable versions by upgrading it.
  • Check your machine – You should run a scan on your computer as well to make sure the infected advertisements didn’t corrupt it as well. Maintaining the security of your machine is crucial to maintaining the security of your website.

If you use MalCare’s services, you can rest easy knowing that your website is free of malvertising. The strong firewall and intelligent malware scanner will look for risks, block malicious code execution, and block requests from untrustworthy sources.

Final thoughts

Being the target of a malicious advertising campaign can have disastrous consequences. It’s bad enough that you’ve already been through this ordeal; you don’t want it to happen again.

Unfortunately, malvertising isn’t the only form of attack that can be so damaging. Hackers are constantly on the lookout for compromised WordPress sites on which to launch various attacks.

We strongly advise you to take your own security precautions to safeguard your WordPress website. The following are the most important steps you can take:

  • Maintain a secure backup copy of your website at all times. If your website has been compromised, you can restore it to its previous state.
  • Take precautions to protect your WordPress website from hackers.
  • Install a trustworthy WordPress security plugin that will search your website on a regular basis and block such attacks until they happen.

We’re sure that your WordPress website will be safe once you’ve completed these three measures.