In 2015, a report by Google addressed the rise in ad injection complaints from users. According to the report over 100,000 Chrome users faced network errors, performance problems, and other issues; all because of ad injection.
“Unwanted ad injectors aren’t part of a healthy ads ecosystem. They’re part of an environment where bad practices hurt users, advertisers, and publishers alike” said Google. Nobody likes ad injection; it is placed without the publisher’s consent, users are likely to install malware by clicking on an unknown ad, and advertisers lose impressions.
But, What Is Ad Injection
Ad injection is an activity involving insertion of ads on a publisher’s web page without taking his/her permission. It’s a program that can insert new ads or replace existing ones during web surfing sessions of a user.
The publishers who are not running any ads on their webpages can also get affected as unwanted ads are blocking content on their webpages. Moreover, the visitors can be under threat posed by these ads via spam and malware stored in them.
If we talk about advertisers, the ad spaces purchased by them to display their ads are falsely taken by unwanted ads due to ad injection. Worse, advertisers would have no idea if their ads are running or not.
Whereas on the positive end of spectrum, Ad injector is used to boost or injects any kind of advert on a page of the publisher’s site. This helps publishers monetize their site and advertiser can also get more impressions.
How Does Ad Injection Work?
There are a number of software that comes bundled with browser extensions or add-ons that enable ad injection. These extensions get quickly installed on your browser. Once installed, they quietly inject N number of ads on various web pages.
By clicking on these ads, users end up installing malware. In a worst-case scenario, malware combines itself with the existing software and downloads. All this happens because users are unable to distinguish between the ads infected with malware and ads which are legit Take a look at some findings researched by Google:
- Multiple browsers viz. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE, others were detected with a Ad injection.
- 75% Chrome extensions were injecting ads and malware, which were removed and disabled by Chrome.
- More than 5% users visiting Google sites have at least one ad injector software installed.
Whose Fault Is It?
Blaming one party for ad injection and the issues surrounding it would be wrong. There are software companies who monetize their software by bundling it with ad injector software. Whereas, many publishers deliberately install ad injection plugins on their websites to display more ads on their pages.
Furthermore, programmatic ad buying, a process of automatic selling and buying of digital inventory, reduces the transparency. Not to forget, advertising system is a complex network of publishers, ad networks, advertisers, ad exchanges and more.
This has created an opportunity to push unwanted ads via ad injection and advertisers don’t even notice the problem until it’s too late.
Publishers do not mind ads being shown on their web pages unless they blocks their content. This is why they do not always notice that ad injection is causing their ad space being used by unwanted ads.
Web pages are filled with great number of ads. Hence, visitors don’t care what kind of ads are being shown. Most visitors simply ignore ads if a website has ads popping from everywhere. Such negligence sometimes leads to installation of spam on their device risking privacy and causing data theft.
So as you might understand, ad injection is thriving due to the recklessness and lack of transparency of the system. It’s scary enough to imagine that a publisher’s ad space is being used by other unauthorized ads.
On top of that, these ads can also transfer malware to the visitor’s device. Not to forget, you (publishers) can’t really blame anyone for issues caused by it, but maybe yourself
How To Fight Against It
If Google is addressing an issue, then you should consider it as a serious one. Meaning, ad injection might not seem a big problem from outside. However, if you take all details (minor and major) in account, a whole different story will build around it.
Considering Google’s security compliance, here are some tips to fight against ad injection:
> Read Software Policy Before Installing It
AdWords Advertisers must comply with the Unwanted Software Policy for each software being downloaded from their site. However, publishers and customers are recommended to review the policy on their own, before using a service.
- Transparent Installation: Software should be easy to download and install. It should have clear proposition which can be easily understood by the user.
- Simple Removal: User should be able to disable/remove the software anytime.
- Clear Behaviour: Software should work, behave, and deliver as promised.
- Data Collection: User should be notified in case there’s any kind of user data being collected.
> Browser’s Warning Should Be Taken Seriously
Many times, before installing software, web browser gives warning to the user like “this software is not safe to use” or “return to safety.” However, some users don’t take these warnings seriously and continue with the process.
Ideally If this is the case, you should abort the process once you see a warning sign from your browser. If required, you may try out some effective ad fraud prevention measures.
> Avoid Affected Companies
In order to reduce the malpractice caused due to ad injection, Google reached out to advertisers to alert them about deceptive ads. Furthermore, a list of companies involved with this kind of ad fraud was also named out.
Calling out the names of these companies effectively reduced the number of ad injection fraud incidents.Hence, young advertisers and publishers are recommended to go through this list.
Ad fraud cannot be avoided entirely. However, there are strict rules and policies designed for the ad industry to fight back.
The simplest way to avoid ad fraud is to follow the rules. In the case of ad injection, advertisers need to be more cautious and publishers should choose more transparent ad services.