Oh the irony of it. I wake up this morning ready to write out my plans for ads on the site and instead find Google have slapped a Malware warning on many of the pages of Skyrim Nexus, due to the ads. How tittingly annoying.
First of all, sorry about the mess. Second of all, it should be “fixed” soon (not that anything is broken). So what’s happened?
When Google sends its bots throughout the web to maximise their search content the bots also run all sorts of tests. One such test is a malware test to see if the site is trying to do anything naughty with your computer. The site could be naughty because it’s deliberately trying to be naughty, or because it’s been hacked by naughty people. Either way, it flags the sites and servers that are naughty and stores them in a big database. This morning on a routine Google bot visit, the bot was served an ad that came from one of those flagged sites; an adserver Google has flagged as serving malware. So naturally, rather than Google blocking your browser from just seeing that ad server, Google has blocked half of Skyrim Nexus, irrespective of whether you are using an ad blocker, anti-virus, anti-malware or any myriad of possible solutions that mitigate and dissipate any threat. Annoying, huh? Queue the face palm.
So why are we serving an ad from a server flagged as serving malware? Well, that one’s even more complex, but I’ll try and break it down for you as quickly as possible. When you’re not doing direct ad sales (e.g. calling up Bethesda’s ad agency and asking if they’d like to purchase inventory on the sites directly), you pass your advertising inventory to ad firms who sell your inventory for you. They’ll give you high quality ads most of the time, but if they can’t sell your impression they’ll pass it on to ad markets, where 100s of ad suppliers are congregated in a form of bidding technology, where the highest bidder for that impression gets to show their ad in that space. This is naturally all done by technology and maths, lots and lots of maths, in a split second. Ad firm A has decided your impression is worth $0.001. Ad firm B has decided it’s worth $0.0011. Ad firm B gets to display their ad to you. Unfortunately, if Ad firm B have been hacked, or have stupidly not vetted the ads they’re showing properly then Google might flag them as naughty malware suppliers. If a Google bot comes to your site when an ad is shown from that naughty ad supplier, BAM, you’re a malware supplier too. And that’s what has happened. Wondering why Google doesn’t just block any access to that supplier, rather than blocking every site that might have used an ad from the supplier? Me too.
I’m always working with my ad suppliers to increase the quality of the ads and remove any crappy suppliers. Today we were unlucky, and now we’ve got to wait for the Google bots to come back around, recheck the sites and confirm that they’re safe to use. They are safe to use. We haven’t been hacked or infected, and you can tell pretty easily. Go to Oblivion Nexus, or Morrowind Nexus, or any other Nexus site. Notice how Google is saying nothing about them? Skyrim Nexus was just unlucky. Showing the wrong ad at the wrong time.
As always you should be doing things to mitigate any damage that malicious code can do to your computer. An adblocker will not protect you from a hacked site, just hacked ads. You should have a good anti-virus program installed on your PC. And that copy of Norton anti-virus you got with your PC isn’t one of them. Any one of AVG, Avast, Comodo, Panda or Avira (which are all free) coupled with Ad-Aware and Malware Bytes will keep you super safe 99.99999% of the time. An adblocker will mitigate your chances of getting attacked by a malicious ad, but not completely prevent it and it will also severely dampen the Nexus’s ability to stay afloat financially. If you want to use one, that’s your choice, but you do hurt the Nexus by doing it.
Once again I apologise for this annoying situation, and we now wait on Google to come back around and sort this out.