Malvertising Takes Aim at a New Target: IoT Devices Connected to Smart Home Networks

Cybersecurity research by GeoEdge and its partners revealed for the first time ever, global-scale attacks originating from Eastern Europe installed malware on home IoT devices through malicious ad campaigns on mobile devices

New York, New York, August 5, 2021 – Global cybersecurity company GeoEdge revealed it has uncovered a global-scale malvertising attack which is the first ad-based cybercrime aimed specifically at home-network-based IoT devices. Working in cooperation with the company’s AdTech partners InMobi and Verve Group, GeoEdge’s security researchers identified both the attack vector as well its origins from bad actors in Slovenia and Ukraine.

GeoEdge’s security research team has been investigating the malvertising attack on smart home IoT devices since mid-June 2021. The widely distributed attack vector is the first to use online advertising to silently install apps on home-WiFi-connected IoT devices and only requires that hackers possess a basic understanding of device API documentation, some JavaScript knowledge and rudimentary online advertising skills. Market research firm IoT Analytics forecasts more than 30 billion IoT device connections worldwide by 2025, making a home and industrial IoT an extremely attractive and vulnerable frontier for malvertisers.

“GeoEdge’s patented behavioral code analysis technology and advanced malware detection capabilities detected these online ads covertly injecting malware into smart-home IoT devices,” said GeoEdge CEO Amnon Siev. “With the collaboration between InMobi and Verve, we exposed the origin, infrastructure and global scale of these attacks. This joint mission is built on trust and a deep understanding of the threat landscape which has enabled us to create a new standard for user protection.”

“Malvertising,” or malicious advertising, spreads malware through the injection of malicious code into online display ads via online advertising networks, exposing user networks and connected devices to the potential risk of infection. Advertising networks are generally unaware they are serving malicious content and in the cases discovered by GeoEdge, users targeted with the attack aren’t even required to click on the infected ad or navigate to a malicious page to initiate the attack on home network devices.

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Digital advertising continues to capture a larger share of marketing budgets for companies large and small and as with that growth comes potential risks. It is critical that we have the checks and balances to identify and contain potential malicious threats before they can infect users’ devices,” added said Kunal Nagpal, SVP and GM, Publisher Platform and Exchange at InMobi. “Our collaboration with GeoEdge enhances user protection across the advertising ecosystem through advanced real-time detection, ensures the delivery of safe ads to our global partners and helps us maintain quality and user trust.”

The impacts of the broad IoT attack revealed in GeoEdge’s research include the ability to manipulate IoT devices, download apps without users’ consent, and risks theft of personal information and monetary instruments as well as tampering with home systems such as smart locks and surveillance cameras. To block such attacks, GeoEdge notes that antivirus apps and even firewalls are not sufficient, making it necessary to continuously block infected ads in real-time to prevent them from being rendered and presented to users.

“As we work to maintain a clean and transparent ecosystem, the ad security landscape constantly evolves, introducing new cybersecurity risks which require innovative solutions,” said Pieter de Zwart, VP of Engineering at GeoEdge partner Verve Group. “We are committed to ensuring a safe advertising experience and partnering with key industry players enables us to fulfill that mission.”


About GeoEdge
GeoEdge is the premier provider of ad verification and transparency solutions for the online and mobile advertising ecosystem. The company’s mission is to protect the integrity of the digital advertising ecosystem and to preserve a quality experience for users. It ensures high ad quality and verifies that sites and apps offer a clean, safe, and engaging user experience. GeoEdge guards against non-compliance, malware, inappropriate content, data leakage, operational, and performance issues.‎ Leading publishers, ad platforms, exchanges, and networks rely on GeoEdge’s automated ad verification solutions to ‎monitor and protect their ad inventory – without sacrificing revenue. The company was founded in 2010 by a team with more than two decades of hands-on technical and online media experience.

About InMobi
InMobi drives real connections between brands and consumers by leveraging its technology platforms and exclusive access to mobile intelligence. Its Marketing Cloud creates new paths for brands to understand, identify, engage and acquire connected consumers. As a leading technology company, InMobi has been recognized on both the 2018 and 2019 CNBC Disruptor 50 lists and as one of Fast Company’s 2018 World’s Most Innovative Companies.

About Verve Group
Verve Group’s omnichannel ad platform connects advertisers, agencies, brands, and publishers to people in real-time. With a privacy-first approach, Verve Group offers advertising innovation at scale with full-stack programmatic solutions in brand-safe environments. The global group is a trusted partner of 5,000+ advertisers and brands with direct connections to 4,000+ publishers and apps globally. Verve Group is part of Media and Games Invest (MGI) and has an international presence with over 200 employees in 20+ offices worldwide, spanning the Americas, EMEA, and APAC.

Alisha is a Technology Writer and Marketing Manager at GeoEdge. Her writing focuses on current events in the AdTech ecosystem and cyberattacks served through the digital advertising supply chain. You can find Alisha on LinkedIn to discuss brand building and happenings in AdTech.

Malvertising, the practice of sprinkling malicious code into legitimate-looking ads is growing more sophisticated. GeoEdge’s holistic ad quality solution has you covered.


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