Technology & InternetWikipedia Ads? You've got Malware

Just because Wikipedia doesn’t allow ads, however, hasn’t stopped some enterprising malware writers from, er, adding some to the website. If you stumble across a for-profit ad on a Wiki entry, it's bad news because it means you have a malware infection.

Wikipedia

 You expect to see ads on commercial websites. For example, if you're looking at a website for CAT equipment rental providers, you expect to see ads for heavy equipment. If you're on a travel site, you expect to see ads for vacation rentals.

You don't, however, expect to see ads on Wikipedia, other than the occasional plea of donations to the site. Wikipedia simply doesn’t allow for-profit ads.

Just because Wikipedia doesn’t allow ads, however, hasn’t stopped some enterprising malware writers from, er, adding some to the website. If you stumble across a for-profit ad on a Wiki entry, it's bad news because it means you have a malware infection.

Browser-Based Malware

The malware that inserts ads into Wikipedia is known as click fraud malware, and it's designed to cheat affiliate marketing systems. An affiliate makes money when someone follows and ad or link to a product. It's a common marketing strategy and, in and of itself, there's nothing wrong with it.

Click fraud malware games the system by either overwriting legitimate ads on the website (so the malware writer profits from the ad space instead of the website owner) or inserting ads on ad-free pages. For instance, the malware might replace ads for heavy equipment rental, Los Angeles California on a CAT website with ads for DVDs or hearing aids.

Wikipedia isn't singled out by the malware, which targets multiple websites. It's just easier to spot click fraud activity on Wikipedia because of the usual lack of ads.

Equally maliciously, click fraud malware can hijack your search results, inserting links into search engine results in the hopes you'll click the rouge link. Clicking on such a link may take you to a legitimate site, but could also direct you to unsafe sites that download further malware into your system.

The malware in question is browser-based, and sneaks into computers using browser add-ons and extensions. The "I Want This" extension targets Google Chrome and has been implicated in Wiki ads. Similar malware infects Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers, so no one's really safe from infection.

Are You Infected?

If you’re seeing ads on Wikipedia, the short answer is yes, your browser is infected with click fraud malware. You can verify this by disabling all browser add-ons. If you do this, the unwanted ads should disappear.

Of course, all that does is confirm the presence of malware. Even if the add-ons are disabled, the malware may lurk in the shadows, still running and affecting your computer.

The best solution is to run an up-to-date antivirus or anti-malware program, which should identify and remove the offending program. Changing your web browser settings to restrict browser add-ons will help prevent the problem from reoccurring.

Intrusive ads may only crop up when you log into public networks, such as free Wi-Fi hotspots or Internet cafes. In this case, it's possible the network itself is infected and injecting ads directly into your browser. This suggests the network has been compromised and should not be used. 

Author

JackvormieShane JonesLocal Soccer NewsLead Editor and President

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