Ad injections refer to unauthorized ads that are inserted into web pages to attract clicks. Users who click on these ads are redirected to other sites, before reaching their target page. Ad injections arise from many sources, like browser extensions, malware, and ad networks. These browser extensions and ad injections are basically plugins that shoppers download unintentionally, which run on their browsers. Chrome, Safari, and Firefox are compatible browsers. Most ad injecting browser extensions are free because their developer’s main objective is to insert unwanted malware to monetize ads. 

To put it simply, ad injections are ads that sneak into a place where they should not be, thanks to malicious software. It is a kind of impression ad fraud that depends on either inserting new ads, or replacing existing ones while a user browses the internet. The result of this is that 3rd party apps monetize user browser sessions, taking away revenue from the publisher. In some cases, ads are inserted on top of pre-existing ads, making the original ones impossible to see, hurting the publisher’s viewability scores. Injected ads sometimes replace other ads entirely, or appear on pages that are not supposed to host ads in the first place.

Advertising that is superimposed on legitimate ads, or in front of the content, is essential malware, with the intent of stealing clicks and revenue. This is quite harmful, however, there are some workarounds. 

How Does Ad Injection Work 

There are many software that comes bundled with browser extensions, or add-ons that facilitate ad injections. Once these extensions are embedded in your browser, they inject multiple ads on various web pages. Clicking on these ads could end up in a user installing malware. This could combine with the existing software and downloads, all this because users are unable to distinguish between malware-infected and legit ads.

Around 75% of Chrome extensions were injecting malware and ads and were all disabled by Chrome. Around 5% of all users visiting Google sites have one ad injecting software installed. Thus we see that injected ads are quite smart, because they seek out existing, legitimate ad space on a page, or usurp the original ad. However, some injected ads could also insert JavaScript code directly on the website on web pages that permit user-write access, like the product or check-out pages. Any user visiting the webpage henceforth shall experience any previously-made changes on that page. 

Who Is To Blame

It is not possible to point a finger at a single party for ad injections and the issues surrounding it. There are many software firms that monetize their offerings by bundling them with ad injector software. There are many publishers who purposely install ad injections plug-ins on their site, so more ads are displayed on their pages. Automatic selling and buying or digital inventory, i.e programmatic ad buying, reduces the transparency. The ad system is a web of publishers, networks, exchanges, and more, creating many chances for people to push unwanted ads via injections, with advertisers not even noticing the problem till it is too late.

As a rule, publishers are okay with ads being shown on their web pages, unless they block important content. That is why they do not always look out for ad injections. Nowadays, web pages are saturated with ads, and users don’t bother about the kind of ads being shown. Many just ignore them, especially if the ads keep popping up randomly. This causes spam installation, risking privacy, causing data theft. It is a lack of transparency in the system and recklessness that is causing ad injections. Publishers are losing out on ad space, and users are being affected by malware. 

How Is Ad Injection a Threat

Ad injections have been a pain point for website owners since the late 2000s. Even the Google Chrome web store is unable to contain its rapid growth. Around 20% of site users could be harmed by unwanted browser extensions, ad injections, and malware that can alter user experience and damage conversion rates, revenue, and consequently brand reputation.

In recent times, ad injection firms have started ad networks to generate revenue from unsuspecting users who click on disguised ads. This permeates a vicious cycle, with users unconsciously injecting more malware and adware that creates even more unwanted ads. Growing in sophistication, ad injections have triggers that inject ads on certain e-commerce sites or when users perform certain operations. User clicks also generate a lot of fraudulent revenue, which is why ad injection isn’t going away anytime soon.

How Do You Fight Ad Injection

While ad injection might not seem like a huge problem, it could cause some issues for publishers. It might also lead to spam being installed on visitors’ devices, causing data thefts and privacy risks. Publishers might find it tough to prevent malicious code from being injected on the client-side of their sites.

However, they can prevent any injected code from loading dynamic content from the web, like ads. Publishers could also try to prevent ad injection attacks by using client-side permissions for both incoming and outgoing requests, making it tough for a site to display content from unauthorized sources, thereby protecting the website and its visitors. 

With Google’s Safe Browsing security compliance taken into account, here are some ways that publishers and web users can fight ad injections – 

Read Software Policies Prior to Installation

Adwords advertisers must always read the Unwanted Software Policy for every software downloaded from their website. Publishers and customers should comb the policy, paying close attention to the software’s installation and removal, as well as behavior and data collection systems.

Pay Attention to Browser Warnings 

Web users should always pay attention to browser warnings like ‘this software is unsafe to use, or ‘return to safety. Upon encountering a warning sign from their browser, users should abort the process instantly. 

Avoid Companies With Ad Fraud 

Google has tried to mitigate the issues caused by ad injection. They have blacklisted companies that are known to practice ad fraud. Publishers and advertisers should go through this list and avoid those companies, choosing more transparent ad services instead. 

Impact of Ad Injection 

Just this year, approximately 70% of shoppers abandoned their carts mid-purchase. While this could have been due to many factors, ad injection cannot be ruled out. If the customer is distracted by a rogue ad, the publisher’s business suffers. 

Injected ads often feature competition, or give price comparisons or annoying pop-ups. If that pop-up contains adult content, the brand’s reputation can suffer irreparably. A customer who has a horrible time surfing a website is unlikely to ever return. 

In short, ad injections cause erosion of customer brand trust and goodwill, deplete revenue from ad pavements, and cause a website to load slowly. They also lead to blocked content and damaged conversion rates. 

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, ad injections are harmful to both publishers and advertisers. As ad injections are only seen by site visitors and not owners, fighting them is tough. However, there are ways the ad industry is combating this. Some sites are looking to curb the effect of injected ads, by implementing Content Security Policies (CSP). Publishers and advertisers would do well to choose transparent ad services. As the former grow more aware, ad injection may just be manageable!

Rayomand Engineer

I am a writer based out of Kolkata, West Bengal, and I like to write on tech, politics, travel, music, environment, and wildlife amongst others. I’ve also written scripts for branded content, and also scripts for short films. I’ve been writing for more than a decade and I love it.