Dating Site Plenty Of Fish Serves Up Malware To Users
Attackers are installing malware on singles looking for live by hacking the advertising network used by Plenty of Fish
After would-be adulterers lose sleep about their details being uncovered in the Ashley Madison data breach, singles looking for love on Plenty of Fish could be infected by malware.
Security firm Malwarebytes has found the advertising network used on the site is dishing up fake ads that install malware on systems with out of date software like Internet Explorer or Adobe Flash.
If a dodgy link is clicked, an exploit kit searches for vulnerabilities and drops the malicious software onto the machine. Some ads can even automatically install malware if it detects a PC that can be infected. Malwarebytes believes the malware installed is Tinba, which is typically used to steal bank details.
The company stresses that Plenty of Fish’s servers have not been breached, so user information is safe – unlike that of millions of Ashley Madison users.“Malvertising has been around for a while now and often is quite successful in its attack campaign because of the lack of interaction needed by the individual infected. It’s not reliant on unpatched servers or vulnerabilities nor the reputation of the affected site,” explained Mark James, security specialist at ESET. “It could be a high profile or an under the radar website and has the ability to spread through thousands of users before being found and stopped.
“After the massive media attention that Ashley Madison has attracted, it stands to reason that similar infiltrations will also attract the same sort of short term awareness. Along with the actual information retrieved from the site, there comes a level of public interest in similar attacks. It’s like buying a certain make of car and then always seeing that car as you drive around, there’s probably no increase in these particular industry specific targets only our awareness of current projects.”
TechWeekEurope has contacted Plenty of Fish to see whether the company has taken any action against the malvertising campaign, but had not received a response at the time of publication.
“[Plenty of Fish] need to ensure they are using a good ad server to manage their online advertising, vet the company and the provider to ensure it has a good reputation,” added James. “While also keeping the public informed of exactly what has and what is happening will help and offer some kind of credit monitoring service to anyone directly affected by the compromise. They should check their entire systems for any type of breach and continue to monitor it on a regular basis.”
Users of the site on any platform (mobile, Windows PC, or Tablet app) are bombarded by ads on the Plenty Of Fish network due to that being the main revenue source for the dating giant. On average, between the screens from the login page to reading just one message, a member will be exposed to 12 ads on their screen. This can result in the average login of a POF member being the subject of over 100 advertising banners on the pages before they log off. Multiply that by the statistic that “There are over 10 million conversations a day on POF” (source: POF website) and you have over 1 BILLION changes for infection if malware is introduced into advertising links and content.
Best Course Of Action
Computer users have to realize that infections can come from anywhere on the internet. And you don’t even have to click on something to get infected. Malware in graphics and ads have been well known for many years, and then including the bad programs inserted into videos and files like PDFs, a user has to always stay diligent.
RULE 1: Update, Update, Update – infections these days are a result of vulnerabilities in the operating system and application programming. Vendors like Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, issues notices of updates and fixes to patch these vulnerabilities. Turning off updates on your computer is like cutting the brake lines on your car. An accident is definitely going to happen. The new Windows 10 does not allow you to turn off updates, but only allows you to control when your computer reboots after any updates have been applied. This is lauded as one of the greatest moves the tech giant has made in terms of moving users to a safer computing environment.
RULE 2: Install and Update Ad Blockers: When a website owner looks to monetize his website and display strategically place ads, he will go to the firms who specialize in managing ad offers and use their banners on his pages. If malware is inserted into banners by a client of the advertizing firm, the website owner has no control nor any idea this is happening. Users visiting the site are at the mercy of the decision of the webmaster and who he picks for a advertising company. An effective adblocking program like AdAware by LavaSoft mitigates many issues with not showing ads on websites you visit, but can be effective against the sites which have possible malware.
RULE 3: Antivirus Protection: Keeping the latest malware away from your computer is changing everyday. Programs come into your memory and write to your hard drive looking for vulnerabilities in your computer. This searching activity can be recognized by the newest Internet Security programs designed not to look for a file, but rather to look for program activity that is out of the norm, and if it is questionable, alert the user immediately and sandbox the file. Sandboxing is a practtice that isolates the file like a quarrantine, and then the file can be submitted to the software manufacturer who will assess the threat and offer instructions to remove any potentially bad files.
UPDATE TO STORY Seems like Plenty Of Fish had not yet released a response to the accusations, but instead has removed all advertising from their website (as of Aug 24, 2015 12:40pm).
User of any website, no matter how popular or trusted cannot let their guard down in regards to the security of the information on their computers. Previously, it was viruses just erasing information many years ago, but now the malware is so well engineered, that remote control of your computer, and active monitoring of every bit on information on your machine, phone and tablet is at risk. Follow the recommendations above and make sure you are protected. Just like making sure your tires and brakes on your car work, negligence can lead to disastrous results when lax with your computer security.
Source for some of the content within the article – http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/security/cyberwar/dating-site-plenty-fish-serves-malware-users-175280