Security Advisor

Microsoft Cracks Down on Misleading Internet Ads in Internet Explorer

Users will be warned if an ad may be fraudulent or misleading.

Microsoft on Tuesday said that it will be taking steps to warn Internet Explorer users of possible misleading advertisements they may come across online.

In a blog posted to the Microsoft Malware Protection Center, the company said that as of June 1, users will be alerted if an online ad might be malicious through its SmartScreen Filter feature, available in versions 9 and higher of Internet Explorer.

"We are currently updating our evaluation criteria to address new technology changes, industry trends, customer feedback, and our desire to help better protect our customers," wrote Microsoft in the blog post. "We are working with the industry and our partners to understand and implement these changes."

Microsoft said that it is updating its warning criteria to weed out ads that might fall in one of the following categories:

  • Misleading content: This includes popups that prompt users to download new versions of software like Java or Flash or those that advertise for PC repair that ultimately end up leading the user to unwanted or harmful content.
  • Misleading downloads:  Ads in which downloads automatically begin once the ad is clicked on. A majority of popups leading to instant downloads hide malware.
  • Malicious code: While Microsoft already has procedures to block ads with malicious code, the June update will strengthen detection and evaluation rules.
  • Indistinguishable content: Internet Explorer will warn users of ads that don't appear to be ads or are masquerading as actual, legitimate content.

"There has been a recent increase in the number of online advertisements that are intentionally misleading in nature," said Microsoft's Malware Protection Center. "We've found that these types of advertisements often try to convince a user to do something, the consequences of which they may not fully understand, such as visiting an infected Web site or downloading a program that can negatively impact their browsing experience."

This week's announcement follows Google's lead, which instigated its own blocking mechanism for harmful or deceptive ads in its Chrome browser back in February.

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