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Microsoft steps up adware blocking in Windows to prevent man in the middle attacks

Microsoft steps up adware blocking in Windows to prevent man in the middle attacks

by AshwinDecember 23, 2015

Microsoft is stepping up the security of its operating systems in a bid to prevent PCs getting infected by adware.

Microsoft Adware Objective Criteria

2015 has seen a huge increase in the number of online attacks.

And not of all those are similar, attackers use various techniques to trick users into being phished. The most common source of such dangerous content are however, delivered through malicious ads.

Malvertising, a form of ad-injection, is when a safe ad is injected with a malicious code, which is then executed upon some user interaction, or in some cases, merely visiting an impacted webpage. And since these ads pose like normal ones, it may not be quite easy to spot a fake ad. You can though, if you observe it with a keen eye, and of course, staying away from dubious websites.

Naturally due to their visual camouflage, not all end users may be aware of the legality of the dangerous ads, and when they accidentally click on it, they literally pay the price for being careless.

But you cannot always point the finger of blame on the user, sometimes perfectly legit websites, including very popular ones, are often the target of ad injectors, which is what puts the whole issue into a big perspective.

The Redmond company says that ad injectors are now more dangerous, because they employ man-in-the-middle attacks. These include injection by proxy, changing DNS settings, network layer manipulation, etc. These malware are designed to intercept all data from the user’s PC to websites, which in turn could spam the user’s browser with ads, promotional offers, etc.

And this is what Microsoft wants to fix. In fact it has taken several steps to fight these, one of which was the crackdown on misleading advertisements, about which we reported earlier this year. Microsoft states that while most browsers do display some sort of warning to the user, when the browsing experience will change (browser hijacking), in most cases there are no tell tale signs.

In order to prevent this, the company is updating its Adware objective criteria to include the following rule:

Programs that create advertisements in browsers must only use the browsers’ supported extensibility model for installation, execution, disabling, and removal.

Microsoft says it will begin enforcing this rule from March 31, 2016. And programs which fail to adhere to the new rule, will be flagged as malicious, and removed from the operating system (by Windows Defender).

As always, we advise readers to pay heed to their security software, OS updates, and browser to stay safe on the internet.