TAG Today - May 2023

In this month's newsletter:





The TAG Threat Intelligence team recently participated in an innovative project with Mercyhurst University to support a student-led analysis of trends in criminal exploitation of the digital advertising supply chain. As part of the school’s first-ever joint Intelligence Studies and Cyber Security senior capstone project, the analysis culminated with an in-person presentation at the university’s campus in Erie, PA for members of the TAG team on the student’s research and conclusions. 

“As criminal activities in digital advertising continue to expand and evolve, it’s important that college students learn the expertise and skills necessary to protect this vital sector of the global economy,” said Mike Lyden, TAG’s Vice President of Threat Intelligence. “We were absolutely blown away at the student analysts’ professionalism and determination, not to mention the quality of analytic tradecraft, and we were delighted to get to work with such talented individuals from the next generation of threat intelligence leaders.”


TAG provided a range of resources to the student-led team, including informational interviews with subject matter experts from TAG, the TAG Malvertising Threat Exchange, cyber security company Malwarebytes, the U.K. Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), and the U.K. National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) as well as access to TAG research, open-source intelligence tools, and mentoring.

The Mercyhurst team’s independent final assessment, which emphasized the vulnerability of affiliate networks to criminal exploitation, reinforced the conclusions of many veterans in the fight against malvertising. The assessment found it almost certain that criminal groups will exploit affiliate network vulnerabilities over the next one to three years through digital malvertising campaigns. In particular, criminal groups are likely to increase the quantity of attacks during holidays and big events, exploit drive-by-downloads, conduct forced redirects, and utilize other tactics to attack both affiliate networks and consumers.

Other key findings from the assessment included:

  • The interconnectivity of criminal group campaigns and tactics make it difficult to differentiate among different groups of bad actors using similar techniques. Despite malvertising discovery, there is often little formal disruption of campaigns.
  • Affiliate Networks that provide broader information about their company’s statistics and personnel are likely to be more reliable for ad partners than those that provide little information about tracking software and affiliate managers on their websites and social networking accounts.
  • Key indicators including industry, payment method, and affiliate managers can help determine the transparency, reliability, and exploitability of Affiliate Networks.
  • Recent malvertising trends may increase consumer concern about ad transparency and safety, prompting for more transparency in the digital ad supply chain.

The TAG Threat Intelligence team plans to encourage other institutions of higher learning to expand and strengthen their cybersecurity and threat intelligence programs around these complicated and vital areas.



In the third of a series of webinars focusing on key stakeholders across the programmatic supply chain, TAG TrustNet’s Tom Triscan and Fiducia’s Pascal Zahner lead a discussion with Justin Adler Swanberg, Director of Product Strategy, Quality, and Compliance at MediaMath, on how DSPs are using impression log data to make programmatic advertising more accountable, responsible and efficient. 

The full discussion can be found here.




From “TAG Certification Grows, NBCU Latest To Get Global Digital Advertising Brand Safety Seal” in MediaPost:


NBCUniversal, including Peacock, is the latest company to qualify for The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) Brand Safety Certified Seal on a global basis. …

The brand safety seal across NBCU’s global operations “was the next logical step in ensuring that we continue to uphold our partnerships with a spirit of transparency and trust,” Abrahim Farraj, NBCU’s senior director of brand safety, said in announcing the global certification.

In March, TAG announced that a record 23 companies had achieved its “platinum” status this year by obtaining all three of the organization’s certification seals: Brand Safety Certified, Certified Against Fraud, and Certified Against Malware.

Those companies include AdForm, Amazon Advertising, DirectTV, Google, Index Exchange, Initiative, IPONWEB, Kroger, Magna, Magnite, MediaBrands, MediaMath, MobileFuse, OpenX, Publicis Groupe, Sovrn, Spectrum Reach, SpotX, The Trade Desk, UM, Unruly, Xandr, and Yahoo.

Overall, 228 TAG certified companies earned a total of 317 seals in this latest annual counting period — up from 230 companies earning 313 seals in the 2022 count. A company’s TAG certification status can be checked on its online registry.

From “NewsGuard: Programmatically-placed ads for major nonprofits and government orgs on dozens of misinformation websites” in Digiday:

Programmatically-placed ads for dozens of nonprofits and universities have been showing up on misinformation websites — including some that overtly conflict with the missions of major organizations paying for those ads, per new report release today. …

“It’s never going to be perfect,” said Mike Zaneis, CEO of the Trustworthy Accountability Group and co-founder of the Brand Safety Institute. “Even if you’re using a brand safety vendor, [and] have inclusion and exclusion lists, the problem is if you have a handful of ads on the worst kind of content, it does have an impact on your brands.”

One more thing...


DocLeverage TAG Research into Your Everyday!

From APAC Fraud Snapshot reports, to UK Brand Safety Consumer reports, to Best Practices whitepapers, TAG's research is here to support our member's day-to-day compliance as well as strategic planning. 

Visit our Data and Insight page 👉 tagtoday.net/insights

SpeakerLet's Make Some Noise Together 🤝

We love it when TAG members highlight our work together to fight digital ad crime and improve transparency. Please send any TAG-related press releases, blogs, or other announcements to Andrew Weinstein at andrewwstn@gmail.com for review before release.


Topics: Blog