Malware Attack On Yahoo Could Impact Advertisers

Scott Lambert


It was discovered on Friday, but it may have been going on for a week. Adverts on Yahoo have been infecting users’ computers with malware and may have been turning them into zombies for use in further criminal activity.

It is a blow to Yahoo, which has been struggling in recent months and losing market share to its own business partner Microsoft. A series of outages in December – apparently caused by a hardware problem – left users frustrated, as did problems with Yahoo's free email service. There has even been speculation about the survival of CEO Marissa Mayer, despite the praise she received early in her tenure for turning the struggling company’s fortunes around.

“At Yahoo, we take the safety and privacy of our users seriously," said Yahoo in a statement released on Saturday. "We recently identified an ad designed to spread malware to some of our users. We immediately removed it and will continue to monitor and block any ads being used for this activity.”

It is still not known where or how the problem originated. Most observers think Yahoo’s servers must have been hacked, but others have suggested that the malware may have simply slipped past Yahoo’s security systems by looking like ordinary advertising material. Java, which Yahoo still uses for this purpose despite other companies increasingly moving away from it, is known to have weaknesses in this area. The simplest way to reduce the risk from malware such as this is to disable Java, which is an option in most browsers.

Yahoo estimate that around 27,000 users per hour were being infected while the malware was in place. Those who clicked on ads there between Christmas and yesterday should watch out for unusual behavior in their computers, especially slowing down or unexpected reductions in available memory, as this could be a sign that their computers have been zombified and are being used by someone else.

The big problem for Yahoo is that this incident may leave people disinclined to click on its ads, meaning that marketers will be disinclined to place their ads there. This could potentially result in a serious loss of revenue at a time when the search engine is already vulnerable. Yahoo may have to overhaul its security system in order to restore confidence. At this point there are no signs that legitimate advertisers have lost money as a result of the attack itself, but anyone relying heavily on advertising on Yahoo would be well advised to work on a back-up plan.

Scott Lambert

Written by Scott Lambert

For 35 years, Scott has been at the forefront of digital transformation and how it is effectively applied in businesses and organizations to market, sell, and support customers and members more successfully and cost effectively. Scott is President and Co-Founder of Xcellimark, an award-winning digital marketing agency serving clients throughout the U.S., Canada, Central America, and Germany. Xcellimark helps businesses succeed through the implementation of its unique digital marketing and sales approach specifically designed to meet their specific goals and objectives. Scott’s marketing, sales, and operations experience have included key management positions at industry leaders including AT&T, iXL (now SapientRazorfish), eSchool Solutions (now TalentED), and BellSouth, where he led the product development, marketing efforts, and market launch of BellSouth.net, the second public ISP developed in the U.S. Scott is the author of articles highlighted on leading online publishers such as LinkedIn, Business 2 Community, and he was recently featured by LinkedIn in the Entrepreneur magazine article on “No Time for Marketing? Hire a Freelancer.” His engaging personality and wealth of real-world and business experience make Scott a frequently requested speaker. Some of his engagements include being the featured speaker in a series of Orlando Business Journal seminars on Digital Marketing, speaking at the WSI London conference, and at international conferences in Belize. Scott has a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Mississippi and a Master’s of Science in the Management of Technology from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Scott has been active in global mission efforts and is a board member of Global Teams, a Christian outreach organization. He lives in Winter Springs, FL with his wife Nancy and dog Sadie.

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