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Cyber Honey Trap: Hackers Hit PornHub Users With Malvertising Attack

12 October 2017

The ads, delivered via the Traffic Junky advertising network, tricked unsuspecting users of Google Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Edge/Internet Explorer into installing bogus "critical" updates to their browsers.

The campaign was tightly focused, with ads being displayed only to users in the United Kingdom, the US, Australia and Canada, and further limited depending upon which ISP they used, said security firm Proofpoint in an advisory.

Yahoo was also found to be displaying the malicious ads on its main website, yahoo.com, but as of last week they appeared to have been removed, independent security site ExecuteMalware said.

Due to the hackers' efforts, users visiting PornHub were redirected to another website where they were offered to download a software update for their browser or the Adobe Flash plugin.

A sign at the PornHub booth is displayed at the 2017 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 18 in Las Vegas. Researchers at cybersecurity firm Proofpoint discovered the malware.

"The combination of large malvertising campaigns on very high-ranking websites with sophisticated social engineering schemes that convince users to infect themselves means that potential exposure to malware is quite high, reaching millions of web surfers", it explained.

Despite the fact that this attack was limited to click fraud, Proofpoint experts warned that an attack of this kind can easily be modified to become a ransomware or data theft Trojan attack. If the user clicked the update button, the virus would be downloaded to the computer, where it would then track users' personal information and browsing habits.

A man looks at pornography online, Hanover, Germany, 25 January 2006.

Pornhub has 26bn visits annually, and although the infection pathway has been closed off, the attack is still continuing on other websites.

This particular type of malware is known as "malvertising" as it causes more dodgy ads to spread, leading to more victims of the attack.

"There has been an upturn in the number of reputable organizations distributing malvertising", Malik says.

According to the Guardian, PornHub did not comment on this development.

"It is worth remembering that defenses will be breached periodically no matter, so it's worth investing in threat detection controls so that any compromise can be quickly and reliably detected and thus responded to", he said.

Cyber Honey Trap: Hackers Hit PornHub Users With Malvertising Attack