Microsoft's 'Malvertising' Battle: A Tough Fight to Win

Microsoft's hoping to find the people who've disguised malware as advertising and hold them accountable. The software company announced it's filing five civil lawsuits against businesses that have taken up ads designed to transmit viruses and other harmful material. The catch, however, is that no one actually knows where those businesses are -- or who's behind them.

Microsoft's Malicious Ad Lawsuits

Microsoft's lawsuits, announced posted by Associate General Counsel Tim Cranton this week, target businesses with vague names like "Soft Solutions" and "" The businesses, Microsoft says, used popular online ad platforms to hide malicious code and try to infect unsuspecting users -- a process sometimes described as "malvertising." If a user follows a link presented in the ad, he could end up with damaged data or stolen information, or even find his PC under someone else's control.

"This work is vitally important because online advertising helps keep the Internet up and running," Cranton says. "Fraud and malicious abuse of online ad platforms are therefore a serious threat to the industry and for all consumers and businesses."

Just this week, a malicious ad made its way . Readers were greeted by pop-up boxes claiming they had a virus and should go download specialized software to fix it. Following the link may have resulted in an actual virus being transmitted.

The 'Malvertising' Fight