FBI Gets Involved in Fight Against Malware

IAB Enlists Law Enforcement, Dreams Of Throwing Bad Guys Behind Bars

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The digital advertising industry is willing to try just about anything to stamp out malware.

In a new push, the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice began working with the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Anti-Malware Working Group last month, at the newly-formed group's request.

"We have become such a target of organized crime that we think this is the only way to truly be successful long term," said IAB exec-VP Mike Zaneis in an interview with Ad Age.

Malware is software built to disrupt or damage computer systems. It often gets downloaded via some sort of trick: hiding itself inside software download bundles or installing itself when a user clicks a malicious link, for example.

Once on a computer, malware can do malicious things such as log keystrokes (the better to grab bank account details) or surf the web in hidden windows (also known as bot traffic). The latter is especially concerning to the IAB and a prime reason why the group contacted law enforcement.

"In the advertising space, what we're particularly worried about is the type of malware that will basically make your computer a zombie, or a bot, and will begin to generate non-human traffic back to criminal websites or just selling traffic on networks or exchanges," Mr. Zaneis said.

This is not the FBI's first attempt to take on malware, but it is the first industry-wide partnership with the department, according to Mr. Zaneis.

The IAB's Anti-Malware Working Group was created in September 2014 and by mid-October officials from the FBI and DOJ were already in its meetings. "One of the very first priorities that the group has undertaken is to create that collaboration," Mr. Zaneis said.

Officials won't be present at every meeting, but the initial meeting established an information sharing partnership which Mr. Zaneis said will be ongoing. The partnership will give companies a way to do something more than simply shut down suspicious activity when they see it.

"Too many companies aren't trained to take the second step, which is to share that threat, that known criminal element, with other companies and with law enforcement. We want that to become second nature throughout our industry," Mr. Zaneis said.

The best case scenario, Mr. Zaneis added, would be to have perpetrators locked up because of information shared with law enforcement via the initiative. "I do dream of that day when these folks go out and put somebody behind bars," he said.

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