Malvertising degrades consumer trust in the digital advertising industry, and stymies industry growth by feeding ad revenue to criminals. This problem has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, with criminals taking advantage of the crisis to target the digital advertising industry with new COVID-themed malvertising attacks.
Since the beginning of July, a team of Duke researchers has been collaborating with The Media Trust, a private cybersecurity company, to investigate an under-researched area of cybersecurity risk: the impacts of undesired third-party code on internet users. The study involves analyzing two evolving datasets: one collected by The Media Trust, and the other by a security team at Duke’s Office of Information Technology (OIT).
Twenty years ago, digital ads were little more than online billboards — pop-ups that didn’t know who was seeing the ad, or why.
But today’s AI-powered digital advertisements are exponentially more sophisticated. The technology behind these ads can profile consumers and segment them into precise audiences, or make assumptions that cause discrimination. There are even plans to serve ads based on the emotions detected on peoples’ faces, as they sit in their own homes.
Imagine how differently things would have turned out in Europe during the Black Death – a medieval plague that killed two out of every three persons – if they could have been warned ahead of time? If only they had the tools we have in the 21st Century. As we deal with a pandemic in our time, critical information can be disseminated in seconds. That’s thanks, in part, to the World Wide Web.