Online Advertising and Hidden Hazards to Consumer Security and Data Privacy: Majority and Minority Staff Report   [open pdf - 2MB]

"For the past year, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has been examining issues central to consumer privacy and security on the Internet and in the broader online economy. Central to this segment of the economy is the online advertising industry, which continues to grow in importance. In 2013, U.S. online advertising revenue for the first time surpassed that of broadcast television advertising as companies spent $42.8 billion to reach consumers. The online advertising ecosystem is highly complex. Online advertisers do far more than merely disseminate text, graphic, or video advertisements. Underlying the work of online advertisers are sophisticated systems that are able to identify and target specific consumer groups with relevant advertising, as well as state-of-the art security practices to monitor the integrity of these ad delivery systems. […] With this investigation the Subcommittee seeks to highlight malvertising, a growing threat to consumers and the online industry. The threat malware poses to consumers is not new, and the sources of malware and the vulnerabilities it exploits are often well documented. Malware can exploit malicious code in pirated software, or vulnerabilities in mainstream software and operating systems. Although malware is most commonly hosted on websites with little or no security oversight, or even completely fraudulent websites visited by consumers, each year more consumers are delivered malware through mainstream websites that may have been compromised or are unwittingly serving malicious advertising."

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U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/
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