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CoinURL's Malware Incident

Introduction

Recently all sites that hosted advertisements using CoinURL were hit by a horrible problem: being blocked by Chrome and Firefox browsers due to malware. This is detrimental to any business, and I would like to take a look at what could have been done to prevent it (and can now be done to prevent it in the future), as well as what has to happen now for damage control.

The Issues With Malware

When a site has malware on it, Google can automatically block it from its browser, Chrome, and then it will usually end up being blocked by Firefox as well. This is a great feature because it helps protect Internet users from being attacked by the malware, and cuts down on the chances that they will be infected by whatever it is. At the same time, however, it can also hurt any websites affected, as it is a warning that the site may not be that safe. For the less knowledgeable user, this can easily turn the visitor away for good, making sure that they stay away from your site and suggest that all their friends do so as well.

Destruction of Reputation

When the CoinURL malware errors started popping up, it caused more problems than people realize. Everyone has been caught on the fact that it kept some sites from being able to load without workarounds (both Chrome and Firefox have methods to allow you to visit sites that are blocked), but the real issue goes a bit deeper than that. When a user visits a site and sees that they are warned about it having malware, the first thought is to evaluate whether or not you want to trust them again. After all, if their site had malware once, it could have it again in the future. What if you were to visit that site before it was caught next time? Now you could end up falling victim to the destruction of the malware.

This ends up destroying the reputation of sites because people do not want to visit websites that they do not trust (and this is a great thing, and very smart to do because you never know what will happen when you visit an unknown site). If you trust the website you are visiting and feel that they will get things under control, this does not have as much of an effect as if you are visiting a site for the first time or otherwise are not too familiar with them.

Damage Control

As far as I am aware, CoinURL has not made too many statements on behalf of the situation. All I have seen from them is in relation to them contacting Google to try and get off the blocked list, but there was no information about what advertiser was infringing on this or how long it had been going on for. This is really not a good sign, because this malware situation is an important thing to be open about. Along with this, allowing the public to know who was distributing it can help greatly with understanding who we should not trust in the future due to shady tactics.

What the current owner of CoinURL needs to do is step up and explain how the breach happened and what is going on to keep it from occurring again in the future. This is a major problem, and leaving it as it is will cause more damage. It is better to get it all over with now and discuss with everyone publicly the options so that we are in the know as to what is going on; this is especially important for any sites that are part of the publishing network!

Prevention is the Best Cure

The situation with an advertiser on CoinURL never should have been allowed in the first place. There are a few ways to prevent this:

  • Make it to where the ad has to be hosted on CoinURL's servers
  • Make it to where new ads have to be verified by a member of CoinURL's team to ensure they do not break any rules (this would be in addition to the above, so that if someone were to submit an ad and then try to swap it out with one that has malware, it would have to be checked out by a member of CoinURL's team again)

These two things alone would have been enough to keep this situation from happening, so long as the site's workers are paying enough attention to what is going on. If they are not, and just look at the ads to see whether or not they are illegal, it kills the entire purpose of even having a manual review.

The Effect of the Attack

At this point it is hard to see what is going to happen as a result of CoinURL's situation. I personally understand that things happen and as long as they learn from their mistakes I am willing to give them another chance. This in no way means that I am not unhappy about the situation even occurring in the first place, but if they are implementing proper protocols from that point forward at least it is not likely to happen again.

Many other web developers, however, are now against CoinURL. This is completely understandable as tons of websites (anything that was utilizing CoinURL at the time the situation started) were not accessible to their visitors. There is no doubt that some of those sites have lost money due to this, and that is a good reason to be upset. On the other hand, there really are not that many advertising networks out right now (although there are more being created) so there is not a lot of competition yet. As time goes on hopefully that will change, but that is a different discussion on its own.

Conclusion

CoinURL went through a pretty bad attack where one of their advertisers embedded malware in to their advertisement. This lead to many sites being inaccessible, and worked towards destroying CoinURL's reputation as an advertising network. The problem was resolved somewhat fast (less than a day) but what happened is still causing fear with website owners in utilizing the network, as there is curiosity as to what is being done to keep the situation from happening again. There is no telling how long malware was being distributed prior to being caught, nor what type of damage could have happened as a result. While CoinURL does not have a lot of competitors right now (and therefore may not be as scared of people moving elsewhere), that is quickly changing and if they do not learn from their mistakes they are bound to fall to the newer competitors that are more attentive and open.

Internet | Cryptocurrency | Advertising


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