Recently hackers infected my in-laws’ computer. “You’ve got a virus,” warning messages flashed at them. An antivirus program that they never had heard of urged them to download their newest product to take care of the problem.

The antivirus program was malware, software designed to be utilized without the computer owner’s informed consent. Was this program a valid antivirus program? Who knows? That fact that it was delivered via a scam makes the product malware and the people who made the software are hackers.

The scam has a new element that makes it noteworthy. The hackers made up advertising that contained a hidden program that displayed the warning messages. (The advertising was for another product entirely.) Then the hackers went to legitimate ad agencies and paid to have their malware-carrying ad displayed on legitimate websites.

What’s being done about it? Internet ad agencies are putting in safeguards. Sean Harvey, senior product manager at DoubleClick DART states, “This is an industry-wide challenge. Unfortunately, there are bad actors who misrepresent themselves and purchase advertising as an avenue to distribute malware. This has the potential to affect all businesses and consumers in the online environment.”

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