Israeli ad tech company Spotad is warning publishers on the threat of possible cryptocurrency miners “slipping” into display ads on their websites.

The news comes as the Middle Eastern firm – which operates AI-powered advertising platform ‘Sarah’ – discovered several anomalies in the code of its ads for both desktop and mobile that turned out to be a miner for the cryptocurrency monero.

The JavaScript-enabled ad was programmed to mislead users into clicking on a pop-up ad that would initiate the mining process.

Speaking to CoinDesk, Spotad’s co-founder Yoav Oz said the agency was unaware of the code that was embedded inside the ad itself.

“It was showing a different kind of behaviour where users were not clicking much, there was no engagement on the ad. That’s where we got the signals out of our system,” added Tomer Horev, chief strategy officer at Spotad.

The company’s AI system, which monitors irregularities in ads, has since updated to capture cryptocurrency mining scripts.

Better equipped

In light of this activity and with the cryptocurrency craze of monero and bitcoin growing rapidly online, publishers and websites owners are told to be more vigilant and better equipped with tools in tackling online threats such as mining scripts.

“These tools will need to evolve to consider miners,” said Horev.

“I think [this] requires a different type of fraud detection that when something happens on the device itself and not on the publisher website. I’m not sure that this type of technology is yet to be introduced in fraud detection tools but I believe it’s just a matter of time.”