Consumer Security: Malware Ads on Forbes

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The annual Forbes 30 Under 30 list highlights a select few in various industries from music to healthcare- these individuals are up-and-coming influentials under the age of 30. Naturally, the 30 Under 30 franchise receives much attention and its pages garner hundreds of thousands of online views.

Many consumers are just becoming aware of how vulnerable their privacy is online, progressively more so with coverage of recent breaches at companies and even government organizations like Apple, the IRS, and Ashley Madison. It’s natural that this year’s 30 Under 30 list include a few names in security. The article mentions:

Ryan Ozonian, 27, created encrypted messaging app CyberDust that he says is safer than SnapChat. Javier Agüera Reneses, 23, created the encrypted smartphone BlackPhone (in partnership with security firm Silent Circle) and now serves as Silent Circle’s chief scientist. Reyad Allie, 26, is Uber’s Global Intelligence Analyst and keeps the $50 billion car service’s driver and user data safe.

 

This nod to advancement in data security only makes it more surprising that Forbes served malware to visitors who wished to view the article and disabled their Adblocker software.

 

Producing quality content accrues a cost, and like other publishers, Forbes pays for this through serving ads or a subscription model. Those who wish to view content without a subscription are asked to disable their Adblocker software for an “ad-light” experience. Forbes claimed this strategy helps monetize millions of impressions that would have otherwise been blocked.

The choice to disable the software is in the hands of consumers, and Forbes’ strategy seemed like a bona fide solution meant to help generate revenue. Forbes has also disabled the poisoned ads since becoming aware of the problem. However, there is a glaring problem with the system when a host cannot monitor exactly what is being served to its visitors. Even Adblocker does not protect users from all malware.

Forbes (and lesser known sites) sometimes have little control over (or knowledge of) what ads are being served to visitors. Until this is resolved, the responsibility for keeping information safe online ultimately falls on the consumer. Stay tuned for more in the future on how you can protect your data.

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