Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Malware protection needed, Senate warns

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WASHINGTON -- The Senate warned Google, Yahoo and other leading technology companies Thursday they need to better protect consumers from hackers exploiting their lucrative online advertising networks or risk new legislation that would force them to do so.

In a new investigative report, the Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations said hackers in some cases are infecting computers using software or programming commands hidden inside online advertisements. It suggested tougher U.S. regulations or new laws that could punish the ad networks in addition to prosecuting the hackers.

The subcommittee highlighted a December 2013 incident in which an Internet user visited a mainstream website and had all of her personal information stolen via an ad on Yahoo's network. Even worse, she didn't have to click on it to deliver a virus that stole her information. As many as two million others may have been exposed to the attack.

The online advertising industry has grown complicated "to such an extent that each party can conceivably claim it is not responsible when malware is delivered to a user's computer through an advertisement," the Senate report said.

The panel said it found no evidence Google or Yahoo's ad networks are more vulnerable to malware attacks than other major ones.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 16, 2014 B16

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